The Bucks County Commissioners on Wednesday approved by unanimous vote a tax rebate program that rewards the enormous contributions volunteer members of fire companies and nonprofit emergency medical services agencies make to their communities.
Under the County’s newly established Active Volunteer Service Tax Rebate Program, volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel can see up to $1,000 in county real estate tax savings each year. Volunteers may begin applying in 2025 for rebates on qualifying real estate taxes paid in 2024.
“It’s hard to overstate how critical fire and EMS volunteers are to our communities, and yet their efforts often go underappreciated,” said Commissioner Chair Bob Harvie. “In times of unbelievable trauma and confusion, these folks put their lives on the line with essentially no thought of compensation or recognition. This is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to those incredible volunteers, and hopefully incentivizing others to join their ranks.”
The ordinance establishing the tax rebate program outlines criteria for eligibility that, in addition to emergency call responses, emphasizes training and education, involvement in agency activities and longevity of service.
Bucks County Fire Marshal John Gundy, who is also a life member of the Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company, said that amid declining membership and increasing training and service requirements, the rebate program is a “great incentive for volunteers to join the service.”
“Any financial incentive is a win-win for our communities,” he said Wednesday during a public hearing held to discuss the ordinance.
Tim Chamberlain, Deputy Chief of the Yardley-Makefield Fire Company, said during the same hearing that he has seen time commitment requirements and increasing cost-of-living drive volunteers out of emergency services. He said he believes the tax rebate program will be a valuable tool for member recruitment and retention.
“I’m very happy to see something like this,” Chamberlain said. “The whole department is in support of this.”
Volunteers who are injured during an emergency response and as a result are unable to perform their duties may also continue to qualify for the rebate under the new program. The ordinance also creates a rebate incentive for administrative members of volunteer departments.
A December 2020 amendment to state law authorized Pennsylvania counties to participate in tax rebate programs benefitting fire and EMS volunteers.
Bucks County is served by 16 nonprofit EMS agencies and 59 volunteer fire departments.
With the goal of encouraging membership in volunteer fire and EMS agencies, the Active Volunteer Service Tax Rebate Program is the latest step taken by the Board of Commissioners to shore up emergency services agencies in Bucks County. Late last year, the Commissioners allocated $5.5 million in federal COVID dollars to nonprofit EMS providers to offset revenue losses incurred during the pandemic.
Click here to read the full ordinance.
Media Contact: James O'Malley, 215-348-6414, [email protected]