Firefighter tax credit approved in Somerset Borough

January 29, 2019

Firefighters in Somerset Borough now have a tax incentive to serve.

During a meeting Monday night, the borough council unanimously approved an ordinance creating a tax credit for volunteer first responders.

The tax credit offers up to $200 off both real estate and earned income taxes.

There are guidelines, however, for eligibility.

According to the tax credits’ annual criteria, volunteers must respond to 20 percent of the department’s emergency alarms, successfully complete four training classes, participate in at least 20 percent of administrative or support services, and participate in at least two fundraising projects.

Borough Manager Michele Enos said the Somerset Volunteer Fire Department came up with the criteria.

“I’m happy that the department provided criteria to retain, recruit firemen,” Enos said. “That’s just a small token for what they do for our community and the borough.”

The move comes after Somerset Township approved a similar tax credit in October. That ordinance has a different criteria for eligibility. Conemaugh Township also offers the credit.

Councilman Steve Shaulis, who is also a fire department member, said he thinks it will take at least a year to see any results.

Shaulis said he feels the criteria are too strict. “I’m not happy with it, but if that’s what the department wants,” he said. “I think it’s too strict, but that could be open for change. Time will tell.

“The fire department is hurting for help, but show me a fire department that isn’t.”

Also during Monday’s meeting, the council voted to purchase $180,000 worth of vehicles through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Cooperative Purchasing Program, or COSTARS.

The council purchased a $131,382 2019 International dump truck and a $49,088 Cat mini excavator.

Enos said the dump truck will replace a vehicle that has been out of service for five years. That vehicle, she said, was 20 years old when taken out of commission. She said that the 2019 general fund has the truck budgeted and the excavator is budgeted in the water fund.

Councilman Gary Thomas cast the only dissenting vote against the excavator. Thomas said the public works department already has the equipment, which could be available for use.

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