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South Hills

Some South Hills communities offering firefighter tax breaks

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, 8:21 p.m.

South Hills municipalities are saying “thank you” to their volunteer firefighters with a tax credit — or in some cases, a little extra cash.

Certain communities are in the process of passing ordinances related to state Act 172, which went into effect two years ago and gives municipalities the ability to provide real estate and earned income tax credits for active volunteer firefighters. Others are prepared to give out the first tax credit to volunteer firefighters in their community next year.

“It’s something nice to give the volunteer firefighters to show you appreciate the time they give,” said Dan Soltesz, Pleasant Hills council president and member of the board of directors for Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Company.

Pleasant Hills council in August passed an ordinance providing qualifying volunteer firefighters with up to $500 in relief on their earned income tax and up to 20 percent off their borough property tax starting in 2019.

To qualify, firefighters must respond to at least 20 percent of the company’s calls that year. Soltesz, who abstained from council’s vote due to his position in the volunteer fire company, said Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Company typically responds to between 400 and 500 calls each year.

Firefighters also must meet certain training requirements to be eligible for the credit.

If a firefighter is injured while on the job, he or she could remain eligible for the tax credit for five years.

Baldwin Borough council adopted a similar ordinance in January.

Members of Baldwin’s three volunteer fire companies can qualify for up to a $300 earned income tax credit.

They must be borough residents and also respond to 20 percent of all calls from their company and pass certain training criteria, borough Manager John Barrett said. They also can receive credit for participating in certain activities such as fundraising, book-keeping, equipment maintenance and emergency management.

Fire chiefs from the borough’s three fire companies have until the end of January each year to submit a certified list of active firefighters who quality.

When council members passed the ordinance in January, they thought there was time for fire companies to get on lists for 2017. That didn’t happen, Barrett said.

The hope is that this year, with more time, the credits will be issued, he said.

In Jefferson Hills, council members still are working on the criteria.

In Brentwood, no tax credits are offered, borough Manager George Zboyovsky said. However, in March, council passed an ordinance allowing the volunteer fire company to pursue reimbursements primarily from an insurance company for certain costs incurred by the department for each call.

Whitehall leaders sat down with members of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company and decided to do something different, borough Manager James Leventry said.

They found offering an earned income tax credit or property tax credit wouldn’t be beneficial to all of their members, he said.

They came up with an incentive program in which firefighters can earn money for participation.

The borough set aside $10,000, and active volunteer firefighters can earn points based on the number of calls they respond to, meetings they attend and trainings they receive, said fire Chief Eric Harris.

The maximum a firefighter can receive is $595.

The fire company plans to hand out the money for the first year of the program at its December Christmas party.

“It’s nice to know that our council and everybody on the administration end does worry about us,” Harris said. “It’s great that our council goes the extra yard for us.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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