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Plum/Oakmont

Plum and Oakmont officials examine offering tax breaks for firefighters

Michael DiVittorio
| Monday, April 2, 2018, 11:00 p.m.
Oakmont Volunteer Fire Department.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Oakmont Volunteer Fire Department.
Holiday Park volunteer firefighters take part in a training program.
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Holiday Park volunteer firefighters take part in a training program.

Plum and Oakmont officials plan to give tax breaks to firefighters to entice people to volunteer and keep those who already do.

Both councils would have to adopt an ordinance to do so, and it would take effect in January.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law in 2016 that gave municipalities the power to grant local tax credits to firefighters.

Plum plans to give a 1⁄2-percent break on earned income tax, meaning if a firefighter earns $50,000 a year they could save $250.

Council approved the ordinance's advertisement this month and could formally adopt it in April.

“This is something that they brought forward and everybody up here was in full agreement to do that to show the support for the firefighters, and to let them know that we appreciate what they do,” Councilman Paul Dern said.

Plum has four fire departments: Holiday Park, Logans Ferry, Renton and Unity.

There more than 100 firefighters in the borough with 25 to 30 at each department.

The Plum Fire Chiefs Association crafted a 50-point system to qualify for tax relief.

Points are accrued through fundraising, responding to calls, training and certifications and length of service, among other factors.

“We want to make sure it keeps people active and keeps people coming around, so it helps out the department the more active they are,” Renton Fire Chief Dave Bender said. He also noted the credit would help out more members than a real estate tax break.

“Everyone works,” he said. “Each of us that have members who are highly active but don't own property yet.”

Oakmont working out details

Oakmont Fire Chief Dave Carroll said his department also has point system and will work to finalize eligibility requirements.

“We're going to adopt the same high standards that we have for maintaining an active role in the department for the tax relief,” Carroll said. “This is taxpayer money, and this is big.

“You're not going to join this fire department just to get this credit, I can assure you of that. I'm not going to sign off on anything if people are not doing the work.”

That work includes responding to as many emergency and non-emergency calls as possible, performing public service activities, fire prevention program participation, continued training and firefighter-related certifications, maintenance for both vehicle and fire equipment, as well as completing required reports.

Oakmont Council has yet to decide how it wants to administer its tax relief.

“We're definitely doing it,” Oakmont Borough Manager Lisa Cooper Jensen said. “We need suggested criteria from the fire department, and we need to determine if we should take it from real estate or earned income tax.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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