TOWN OF ULSTER, N.Y. — The Town Board has scheduled a Thursday, Feb. 15, public hearing on a proposed property tax exemption for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.
The exemption would provide a 10% assessment reduction. The session is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. at the Town Hall on Town Hall Drive, Lake Katrine.
Under the proposal, those eligible for the exemption would need at least two years of service in a fire company or an ambulance squad.
“This version will fully encompass all the (fire and rescue) departments,” town attorney Jason Kovacs said. “We wanted all firefighters to be able to participate.”
In the proposed local law, officials wrote that the exemption seeks to bolster membership in the town’s five fire companies.
“The board … finds that providing real property tax exemptions to qualified workers would be an incentive to attract new volunteers and help combat an alarming decline in the number of volunteers serving as active responders to fire and medical emergencies,” they wrote.
Exemptions would only apply to property that is used for the volunteer’s primary residence and is used “exclusively for residential purposes.” However, officials wrote that “any portion … (that) is not used exclusively for the applicant’s residence but is used for other purposes … shall be subject to taxation and the remaining portion only shall be entitled to the exemption.”
The exemption would also require that volunteers be an “enrolled member in good standing” with a company that covers property in the town.
“Each incorporated volunteer fire company, fire department, or voluntary ambulance service shall … submit to the town of Ulster assessor on an annual basis the current adopted by-laws … along with a list of active members in good standing,” officials wrote.
Officials will leave it up to the fire companies to determine whether a member qualifies for the exemption.
“We’re simplifying so if the fire chief gives a list to the town assessor … (and candidates meet) all the requirements the assessor will review them and give them the tax break,” Kovacs said.
Exemptions would be passed onto spouses of deceased firefighters who either died in the line of duty after at least five years of service or died after 20 years of service, provided the spouses have not remarried.
Officials expect the exemption will be used in conjunction with assessment reductions granted to senior citizens and military veterans, but information was not immediately available on how the calculations would be applied.