Cambria Twp. mulls tax credit for firefighters

Act 172 provides incentives in effort to attract volunteers

EBENSBURG — Cambria Township supervisors have agreed to consider providing a tax credit to local emergency responders in an attempt to encourage recruitment and retention of volunteers.

Members of the Cambria Township Volunteer Fire Company — known locally as Colver Fire Company — attended a Wednesday night supervisors meeting to request the credit, which is made available via a new law.

Act 172 took effect earlier this year, giving municipal leaders the power to grant tax credits to active volunteers who have complied with certain requirements and certifications.

The purpose of the act, which amends an existing state health and safety statute, is to provide incentives for current, former and prospective volunteers.

“This is a big boost for us,” fire company member Mike Olsavsky said.

Olsavsky said the company has experienced a dwindling volunteer base over the past few years.

The intention of Act 172 is to halt that decrease by providing tax credits, which are intended to attract new members while also encouraging longevity among existing members.

Through Act 172, supervisors can make credits available for both municipal income tax and property tax.

Up to 20 percent of property taxes owed and $200 worth of earned income taxes owed can be credited, and fire company member Steve Verbosky said members would like to see supervisors allow that whole amount.

That cost savings, he said, likely would encourage homeowners and young people to join the company.

Those people, Verbosky said, will not be able to take advantage of the credits without first completing proper training and meeting other requirements.

“We can’t just show up and say ‘Hey, I’m a fireman,'” Verbosky said.

If firefighters who do not meet those regulations try to take advantage of the benefits, they could be fined up to $2,500, Olsavsky said.

“It does provide that safety net,” he said of the act. “The fire company has to police itself.”

Jackson Township approved the credits earlier this year, he said. Once approved, credits become available to all township companies — in Cambria’s case that would include Colver and Revloc Volunteer Fire Company, Verbosky said. Volunteer medical responders also can receive credits, he said.

Colver officials asked supervisors to pass an ordinance making the credits a reality. In turn, supervisors asked township solicitor Gary Costlow to look into the issue.

“I think that’s good,” supervisors’ Chairman Tim Bracken said of the act.

It is unclear when supervisors will vote on an ordinance to enact the credits.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.