Village of Massena considers property tax exemption for fire and rescue members
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
MASSENA — Massena Fire Department and Rescue Squad members might soon see a property tax exemption but not before the public has an opportunity to chime in.
A public hearing has been set for Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m. for village residents to voice their opinions on the matter.The move comes as fire departments and rescue squads nationwide continue to struggle to recruit new members to bolster their ranks.
Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed into law the legislation that would allow for such exemptions at the discretion of local municipalities.
Officials say the move would allow for an exemption of up to 10% of the assessed value of the primary residence of volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.
There are some stipulations, however, such as the requirement for the property to be owned by the volunteer, that the property must be the volunteer’s primary residence and the volunteer must live in the jurisdiction that is served by the fire department or ambulance service.
Additionally, local governments can authorize a life-long 10% exemption for members who have more than 20 years of active service. The member must maintain the listed property as their primary residence to maintain the exemption.
Former Massena Town Board member Tom Miller, who also serves as first assistant chief with the Massena Volunteer Fire Department, praised the board for their efforts during the meeting.
“Volunteers from across the states, all the United States, have gone down and unfortunately Massena has not avoided that. Massena Fire is down in numbers, Massena Rescue is down in numbers. We are continuing every day to think of ways to recruit and retain our members. We have a great group of guys, and we need to retain these people,” he said.
Miller also informed the board that the department had minimum standards, including a 20% call rate, a minimum number of meetings to be attended, OSHA training, monthly training and other requirements.
Officials say such standards will also be required for members to be eligible for any property tax exemptions if it becomes law.
Miller said he hopes if the village board adopts the local law that the town and county will follow suit in a continued and sustained effort to recruit and retain new fire department and rescue squad members county wide.
Benjamin Miller, president of the Massena Rescue Squad, also suggested the local law would greatly benefit the rescue squad as well.
“We as Massena Rescue don’t have a lot to offer the volunteer members, so I think something like this would be great. We can’t give them money because we’re a nonprofit organization. I think it’s a great opportunity and tool to recruit,” he said.