GOSHEN – On Thursday, the Orange County Legislature held its monthly legislative session. All 19 legislators unanimously voted for three local laws that provide property tax exemptions relating to volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance services.
Agenda #2 in the draft resolution is “a local law to provide a real property tax exemption for members of volunteer fire companies and voluntary ambulance services.”
Agenda #3 states “a local law to provide a real property tax exemption for unremarried surviving spouses of formerly enrolled members with more than 20 years of service to volunteer fire companies and voluntary ambulance services.”
Agenda #4 states “a local law to provide a real property tax exemption for unremarried surviving spouses of formerly enrolled volunteer firefighters and voluntary ambulance service members killed in the line of duty.”
The property tax exemptions for all three will be 10 percent.
“These are absolutely important laws for the community,” said Assemblymember Kevin Hines of the 12th District.“Lets face it, in order to live in Orange County, you have to have enough income to pay the state of New York taxes, the school taxes, things of that nature.
To do that, some people have to work two jobs. So, it is very hard to get volunteers and specially on the fire service side, because the training is intense. On the EMS side, you have to be an EMT, that training is intense. Some people go on to be paramedics. Moreso in Orange County, we are seeing EMS get paid now. But in the fire service, we are not seeing that except in the three cities.” Hines said he has been a volunteer fireman for the Canterbury Fire District in the Town of Cornwall for over 40 years.
This amends a law from 2005. “The old law provided $200 per volunteer off their real property tax in Orange County. However, the state of New York gives every volunteer an option to take $2,000 off their income tax. And you can’t do both. So, nobody took advantage of this law,” said Hines.
He added, “in other words, the towns have a right to do this, the villages have a right to do it. Fire Districts can do it, school districts can do it. We are hoping they all jump on board and do this. Otherwise, this law means nothing and everyone will revert back to the income tax deduction. We are hoping it’s a case-by-case scenario, because every time you give somebody a tax break, a volunteer, somebody else has to pick up that difference. The money is still paid by somebody.”
The local law had bipartisan sponsors. These included Assemblymember Republicans Barry Cheney of the Eighth District, Kathy Stegenga of the 11th District, Majority Leader Thomas Faggione of the 13th District, Leigh Benton of the 16th District and Hines. Democrat Minority Leader Michael Paduch of the 19th District also sponsored the local laws, along with Conservative James O’Donell of the 21st District and Democrat/Republican/Independent Mike Aganostakis of the 17th District.
“With all emergency services issues in Orange County, politics never come into it. It is always about public safety. And in this case, it is a public safety initiative, because we need more volunteers,” said Hines.