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Penn Township considers tax break for firefighters

Jacob Tierney
| Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 9:51 p.m.
A firefighter works at the scene of a house fire at 2070 Ridge Road in Penn Township. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
A firefighter works at the scene of a house fire at 2070 Ridge Road in Penn Township. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

Penn Township firefighters probably can look forward to a refund when they file their taxes next year.

The township is considering an ordinance that would allow active firefighters to receive a discount of 20 percent of their real estate taxes and up to $300 of their earned income tax.

Numerous communities in the region and statewide have passed similar measures following last year’s passage of Act 172, a state law allowing municipalities to offer a tax break to firefighters.

The breaks are meant as a recruitment and retention incentive, as departments across the state struggle with dropping numbers and aging members.

“Pennsylvania is in a crisis when it comes to volunteer fire companies,” said Penn Township Manager Alex Graziani.

Penn Township has five fire departments. Offering tax breaks to all eligible firefighters could mean up to $25,000 in lost tax revenue, less than half a percent of the township’s annual income.

That’s worth it if it means bolstering the township’s fire service, Graziani said.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Firefighters must have served for at least a year and be active in department activities to qualify for the break.

The township has a one-mill tax to fund its fire departments.

Some Penn Township firefighters live outside the township, and some Penn Township residents serve on neighboring fire departments. Township leaders are discussing reciprocity agreements with neighboring communities like North Huntingdon, Murrysville and Trafford so that firefighters are eligible for breaks in their home municipalities, regardless of where they serve, Graziani said.

North Huntingdon became the first Westmoreland County municipality to offer the breaks in February.

Penn Township commissioners will likely vote on the ordinance within the next few months, well before next year’s tax season begins, Graziani said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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