Kevin Connolly, President
For Immediate Release
Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019
Media Contact: Jordan Mayblum
Email: [email protected]
Massachusetts Call Volunteer Firefighters Association Advocates for Tax Breaks for Fire Responders on Beacon Hill
HADLEY — President Kevin Connolly was one of two Massachusetts Call Volunteer Firefighter Association (MCVFA) leaders to advocate for tax relief for fire responders throughout the Commonwealth earlier this month.
Connolly sat before the Joint Committee on Revenue on Beacon Hill to speak in favor of House Bill 2502/Senate Bill 1666 — Providing volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians with a local option real estate tax exemption. Swansea Fire Chief Eric Hajder also submitted written testimony in support of the bill.
The pair of fire service veterans pointed to the success of the program in Swansea, upon which the legislation was modeled. The bill would create an option for Massachusetts cities, towns or districts to reduce the property tax obligations of volunteer firefighters and EMTs in exchange for their volunteer services.
Massachusetts is served by approximately 8,000 volunteer firefighters and EMTs, however this number continues to decline, meaning small towns across the state have needed to find ways to recruit and retain volunteers. The MCVFA has advocated for this legislation in order to provide an incentive that will attract volunteers to the communities that rely on volunteer first responders.
“Volunteer firefighting is a demanding activity, which becomes more demanding considering the always expanding mission of the fire service,” Chief Hajder said. “The tax incentive program implemented by the Town of Swansea was a means to attract and retain volunteers by compensating them for their time and demonstrating that the community values their service.”
Swansea’s tax break program, which is currently the only one in the state, provided a tax credit for the firefighters that were most active and took on greater responsibility. The credit then increased based on level of training, longevity and rank.
Swansea’s program has seen considerable success indicated by a steady increase in membership and retention since the start of the program. The Town has also seen other benefits of offering a tax abatement, as several members have chosen to purchase homes in Swansea to take advantage of the credit.
“A decrease in membership among majority call or volunteer fire departments is a well-documented national trend,” Connolly said. “The incentive this bill would provide can help to maintain viable firefighting forces in Massachusetts communities, a result that has been proven by the Swansea Fire Department. We hope that the state Legislature will support this bill.”
The MCVFA promotes the welfare of Massachusetts Call and Volunteer Fire/EMS companies and their members. Established in 1990 we have grown from 14 departments to more than 130 fire and emergency services organizations representing over 3400 members. For more, visit the MCVFA website at mcvfa.org.