Madison County lawmakers back bid for higher firefighter tax credit

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WAMPSVILLE — Madison County’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday afternoon to recommend an increase in state income tax credit for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service workers.

The increase, if approved by New York State, could help the finances of current firefighters and EMS personnel in the county, and also help attract more volunteer firefighters to the county.

“This move is basically a no-brainer,” Roger D. Bradstreet Sr., the Nelson Town Supervisor who also chairs the county’s criminal justice, public safety and emergency communications committee, said. The vote supports an increased tax credit from $200 to $500 per year. The county will forward their support of the increase to the New York State Association of Counties in hopes of influencing them towards making the change.

In 2013 State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, introduced a bill that would increase the state income tax credit up to $1,200 to volunteer firefighters and first responders in good standing with their departments.

State tax law also allows emergency workers to claim a credit on property tax, although they may not claim both the income tax credit and the property tax credit. If a property has multiple owners, the owner who did not claim the income tax credit for their service could instead claim the property credit.

“This vote doesn’t mean the increase will happen. It will be up to NYSAC to push this through,” Bradstreet said.

NYSAC staff said that the likelihood of any increase is uncertain, but that lawmakers understand the plight of volunteer fire districts. The challenge would be finding ways for the state to identify ways to pay for such incentives.

“Our communities are safer and more secure because of the many volunteers who devote their time to protecting their neighbors. We need to do more to recognize this volunteer service and encourage New Yorkers to volunteer as firefighters and emergency responders in our community,” NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario said.

Heroes needed

Madison County hosts 22 volunteer fire departments and the City of Oneida hosts the county’s only paid department. In 2016 the Department of Homeland Security provided a $24,000 grant provided through Homeland Security will help Madison County’s Office of Emergency Management recruit volunteer firefighters and medical personnel.

“Different towns and villages have larger or smaller populations, and we’ve been making up for this by sharing resources when an emergency happens. We’ve had up to five departments respond to a call,” OEM Director Ted Halpin previously told the Sentinel.

Recruitment efforts have been stymied for different reasons.

“We have people leaving the area because of the economy, we have two-income homes where parents lack the time to commit to volunteer work,” Halpin said. “And some people don’t think they can do the work.”

The county’s volunteer departments offer an array of different jobs, from indoor firefighting to fire police work. The time commitment is typically two nights a week along with training exercises. More information may be found at Visit www.MadCoHeroes.com or by e-mailing EM@madisoncounty.ny.gov.

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