Somerset Township finalizing details of first responder tax credit
The Somerset Township supervisors dealt with the logistics Thursday of their tax credit for first responders. They also added the final department to the list of crews that qualify.
The supervisors added Friedens firefighters to the list of those eligible to receive the tax credit. Supervisors passed an ordinance in October that gives qualified fire department volunteers in Somerset, Listie and, now, Friedens a reimbursement of 20 percent of their property taxes and $200 off their earned income taxes each year.
Township solicitor Michael Barbera said many municipalities in the county are watching to see how the township addresses a tax credit program that is still in its infancy.
“(The township) is kind of the guinea pig for this program,” he said. “Other townships, I understand, are watching this very closely.”
Officials said only Somerset and Listie fire departments submitted a list before the Jan. 31 deadline, but officials said it was something they were willing to overlook with this first official rollout. No one from the three fire departments attended the meeting.
A volunteer must serve a minimum of 100 hours a year with volunteer emergency services and must be a township resident to qualify. The credit does not count against school, county, state or federal taxes. The township’s property tax rate is 1.61 mills.
Officials said they’ve been having a few problems, especially since the township is required to create some of the bureaucracy that comes with such a program.
“With the rules and regulations, they didn’t give you a sample form or anything. So you had to create that yourself,” township secretary Tami Yutzy said.
Rules for receiving the credit require volunteer first responders to provide certification showing 100 hours of activity with the department the previous year. They also require departments to provide notarized lists of volunteers who qualify to the township.
Township officials are hoping the tax credit will reward current volunteers while encouraging more residents to join volunteer fire and EMS departments.
Supervisors Chairman Don Miller said that despite the hassle of creating a system to manage the tax credit, supervisors are eager to give something back to residents who volunteer their time for the township’s safety.
“There are going to be bumps along the way, but we’re not really worried about it,” he said.