Volunteers could see tax breaks

Jamestown’s delegation in the state legislature has introduced a bill that would increase tax breaks for volunteers who serve in the fire department.

The legislation from Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Alex Finkelman, both Democrats, would establish a program that would provide firefighters and emergency medical technicians up to $2,000 relief on their annual property tax bills.

“Our neighbors on the volunteer fire department are true heroes,” Euer said.

If a volunteer does not own property, they would be eligible for the cash equivalent, according to the lawmakers. It would be up to the town to set eligibility criteria.

“With daily costs rising rapidly, especially in regards to housing costs, our brave and dedicated fire and emergency personnel in Jamestown deserve some relief for the vital and dangerous jobs they perform every day to keep us safe,” Finkelman said. “Jamestown firefighters serve the community on a voluntary basis, so this tax abatement would serve as compensation for the crucial services they provide, often at the risk and expense of their own well-being.”

Jim Bryer, chief of the fire department, recommended criteria to the town council in November.

Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians currently receive an annual tax abatement of $700. Under the proposed three-tiered system, volunteers would receive an abatement of $1,000 for 1-9 years of service, $1,500 for 10-19 years of service and $2,000 for 20 or more years of service.

The years of service is dependent on whether the volunteer is a “member in good standing.” For firefighters, they must participate in 24 weekly training sessions and respond to a minimum of 20 percent of fire incidents in the previous year to be considered in good standing. For emergency medical technicians, they must participate in 24 weekly training sessions and work at least 40 shifts in the previous year.

Members at least 55 years old who retired after July 2022 with 25 years of good-standing service would qualify for the $2,000 abatement for life. That benefit is transferable to a surviving spouse until they die or re-marry. For members without property, a cash equivalent would be offered.

Under the proposed incentive program, firefighters also would receive $25 for every responded call with an additional $12.50 per hour for calls over two hours. For EMTs, they would be compensated $7.50 per six-hour shift with drivers earning $4 per shift. They also would receive $25 per call in addition to their shift incentive. These incentives would be paid quarterly.

The incentive program has not been updated since 2009.

After Bryer presented his plan to the councilors, they subsequently approved a resolution on Jan. 2 asking for its legislative delegation to support the amendments to the local code of ordinances.