Jan. 18: Public hearing on tax exemption for volunteer firefighters, ambulance workers

Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed legislation that creates an opt-in for all local governments to provide a a partial property tax exemption to volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers.

Chapter 670 of the Laws of 2022  allows municipalities to offer an exemption of up to 10% of the assessed value of the primary residence of volunteer firefighters and/or volunteer ambulance workers.  The measure was signed into law to help communities attract and retain volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.

At its Jan. 18 meeting, the Bethlehem Central School District Board of Education will hold a public hearing as it considers providing the partial property tax exemption to qualified volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers who reside and serve within the district.

District residents are invited to submit comments in person. The hearing will be held as part of the regular Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. in Room D-122 at the high school. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the BCSD Events channel on YouTube

If approved by the Board of Education, qualified volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers in the district would be required to apply for the exemption.

The exemption would only be granted for property owned and used as the primary residence of the volunteer firefighter or volunteer ambulance worker. The property must be located within the district and within the jurisdiction served by the fire company, fire department, or ambulance entity to which the volunteer belongs. If a portion of a volunteer’s property is used for other purposes, the exemption would be prorated and only apply to the portion of property used exclusively for residential purposes.

As part of its consideration, the Board would also set a minimum service requirement of between two and five years for volunteers to become eligible for the exemption. Additionally, a lifetime exemption may be provided by the Board to volunteers with at least 20 years of service as long as they maintain their primary residence in the community they served. The lifetime exemption could also be extended to unremarried surviving spouses of deceased volunteers who maintain an eligible primary residence.

The specific terms of the new exemption are set forth in new § 466-a of the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) as enacted by Chapter 670 of the Laws of 2022.

The Jan. 18 public hearing on the partial property tax exemption will take place at the beginning of the meeting.