MIDDLEFIELD — Residents could soon be asked to consider expanding a tax abatement for active emergency personnel to extend into retirement.
The proposal, being drafted after initial support from Board of Selectman, would still need approval from residents before going into effect. First Selectman Ed Bailey said the goal is to have a vote in time for the abatement, if approved, to be in place for the bext budget.
“I’m glad we have an opportunity to provide them with a token of the town’s appreciation for all the services they provide,” Bailey said about the proposal.
The abatement, permitted by state law, gives active volunteer firefighters in town receive a break on property and motor vehicle taxes if they meet certain requirements, such as serving for at least 25 years. State law also allows towns to give the abatement to volunteers with police and emergency medical departments, but Middlefield doesn't have either.
Only Middlefield residents who volunteer with the local fire department are elgible to receive the abatement, capped at $1,000, while the spouses of volunteer who died in the line of duty may also qualify for a 50 percent tax abatement.
Bailey said selectman seemed supportive of the idea during an informal presentation in January and the town attorney is currently drafting a proposal. If selectman approve the proposal, residents will get to vote on whether to enact it during a town meeting.
If approved, the ordinance could go into effect July 1, 2019 and be included in the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget.
Peter Tyc, fire chief and fire marshal, said the fire department currently has about 39 active volunteers. The company is forced to cap membership at 50 for insurance reasons, but is actively looking for volunteers to fill the remaining openings.
Tyc said he hopes this will be an incentive not only for new recruits, but for current ones to stay longer.
“It costs a huge amount of money to train people and if we can get (them to stay) 25 years, it’s a no brainer,” Tyc said. “Anything we can do to give an extra little incentive hopefully will help.”
He said the company asks a lot of time and energy from the volunteers, so anything they can do to protect them in the long run is worth it.
Bailey said only a few people may be able to qualify for the retirement tax abatement in the next few years and doesn’t expect a huge budget impact.
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