At its Feb. 1 meeting, the Bethlehem Central School District Board of Education approved a resolution allowing a partial school property tax exemption for qualified volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers who are homeowners and reside and serve within the school district.
The decision will provide eligible volunteer firefighters and/or volunteer ambulance workers who have at least two years of volunteer service a 10% school property tax exemption on their primary residence.
The board’s adoption of the Volunteer Firefighters and Volunteer Ambulance Workers’ Tax Exemption comes after a new state law was signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in December to help communities attract and retain volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers. That law, Chapter 670 of the Laws of 2022, gives individual municipalities the right to approve a partial tax exemption for their community emergency services volunteers.
“One of BCSD’s core values is community, and we work to help our students become engaged community members,” said Board of Education president Holly Dellenbaugh. “Our volunteer first responders are terrific role models for our students. This is an opportunity to support our neighborhood volunteers and to encourage younger generations to join their ranks.”
Bethlehem Central is one of the first school districts in the state to grant the partial tax exemption to first responders under the new law.
“Thank you to the Bethlehem Central School District for recognizing the need to increase the number of volunteer firefighters and EMS providers,” said Edward Tase, president of the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY). “There is great value in this initiative as a recruiting tool for new volunteer firefighters. The Bethlehem Central board has set the groundwork for other municipalities. I really can’t say enough how much it means, not just for recruiting volunteers in the Bethlehem community but all across the state of New York.”
The board’s action does not provide an automatic exemption. Qualified volunteers must apply for the exemption.
Apply by March 1, 2023
To receive the school tax exemption in the 2023-24 school year, first responders in the Bethlehem Central School District will have to act quickly. The application deadline is March 1.
Completed applications for the BCSD exemption must be submitted to the town assessor in the town where the individual resides. The Bethlehem Central School District includes part of the town of Bethlehem and part of the town of New Scotland.
The application, NYS Form RP-466-a-vol can be found here.
Applicants will also need to check with their volunteer fire or ambulance company to make sure they qualify and can be certified as a member of the fire company, fire department, or ambulance service.
General BCSD exemption eligibility guidelines
- The volunteer firefighter or volunteer ambulance worker must have at least two years of service.
- The property must be owned by the volunteer firefighter or volunteer ambulance worker;
- The property must be the primary residence of the volunteer firefighter or volunteer ambulance worker;
- The property must be located within the jurisdiction served by the fire company, fire department, or ambulance entity to which the volunteer belongs;
- The property must be used exclusively for the volunteer’s residential purposes, or if for mixed purposes, only the volunteer’s residential portion is entitled to the exemption.
Benefits for longtime volunteers
The resolution approved by the Board also provides that the partial school property tax exemption would become permanent for the volunteer firefighter/ambulance worker homeowner after 20 years of service so long as the residence remains the volunteer’s primary residence.
The tax exemption would also be extended for the lifetime of a surviving, unremarried spouse of a deceased volunteer. For this exemption to apply to an unremarried spouse, the deceased volunteer must have served for at least 20 years and received the exemption for the subject property prior to his or her death or have died in the line of duty with at least five years of service with a volunteer first responder agency.
Questions about the tax exemption
Volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers who have questions about the Bethlehem Central School District exemption should contact their local assessor’s office.