1. #1
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    Thumbs up Sales tax exemption for volunteers

    Legislator Fried Introduces Legislation to Provide a Sales Tax Exemption For Emergency Service Volunteers


    New City, NY (March 17, 2005) Ė During the March 15th legislative session, Deputy Majority Leader David Fried requested that legislative counsel begin the process of drafting legislation to establish a sales tax exemption for uncompensated emergency service volunteers in Rockland County. Legislator Fried also requested that the Legislatureís fiscal analyst prepare a financial impact statement to measure the economic considerations of this proposal. Fried told Legislators, "I call on county government to provide its volunteer firefighters, ambulance corps members, and auxiliary police with a sales tax exemption. We should aspire to be a model for volunteer recruitment and retention."

    Legislator Fried has initially proposed that emergency service volunteers be eligible for the exemption upon three years of continuous service in a Rockland County emergency service volunteer unit. The law will be proposed in the form of a home rule request to the State of New York because Legislator Fried seeks to waive both county and state sales taxes. Fried said, "I want New York to join us and invest in this effort. We have the potential, as state and county, to establish this program as a pilot."

    The purpose of this legislation is to expand retention timeframes and promote longevity. By making it easier for emergency service volunteers to remain active for longer periods of time, Fried believes the county gets a greater return on training dollars and volunteer units achieve more advanced leadership pools. Legislator Fried stated, "Rockland is fortunate to have a volunteer-based service. These heroes save our taxpayers over 100 million dollars every year by their gratuitous acts. If we lost our volunteers and government needed to hire such personnel, property taxes would skyrocket."

    Legislator Fried elaborated, "I had classmates in high school who volunteered as first responders. Most of them have moved out of Rockland because they couldnít afford to live here. Many of those who continue to live and serve here work more than one job and others live paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to pay rent. A sales tax exemption keeps real dollars in volunteerís pockets, reducing financial burdens that often make volunteer service difficult."

    Legislator Fried cited that this law also has potential for stimulating our local economy in that his proposal will encourage Rocklandís approximate 3,000 volunteers to purchase locally. Fried concluded, "This adds up to 3,000 more people who will shop here instead of New Jersey."

    We currently get a VERY small discount off of our property tax. This would help.
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    Lower my property taxes instead!!

    The home prices have skyrocketed, and those that can afford to buy now, don't seem to volunteer.

    A real property tax decrease will help those that do have homes, bought years ago, realistically stay in the area.

    $2.00 of a pair of socks ain't helping me any!

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    firepics
    Lower my property taxes instead!!
    How many younger firefighters actually own their own homes?
    To me a sales tax exemption would be just fine, if it were statewide.


    Legislator Fried has initially proposed that emergency service volunteers be eligible for the exemption upon three years of continuous service in a Rockland County emergency service volunteer unit. The law will be proposed in the form of a home rule request to the State of New York because Legislator Fried seeks to waive both county and state sales taxes. Fried said, "I want New York to join us and invest in this effort. We have the potential, as state and county, to establish this program as a pilot."
    If the elgibility for the exemption is after three years of service, by that time you have usually weeded out the ones that are not really interested. If you make the volunteer fire service a so-called career
    (20 years or more), I could see quite a savings on anything you would purchase when settling down. Homes, autos, applainces, clothing, etc..
    It's not just a pair of socks.

    Just this past week, on television, I believe New York State Attorney General Schumer said something about legislation giving all emergency services personnel a $1000 income tax credit. I think I could do better with the sales tax exemption.
    Last edited by AFD368; 03-21-2005 at 09:20 PM.
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    How many younger firefighters actually own their own homes?
    True. I should have been more clear. In my area, the chances of a younger "blue collar" (or for that matter, an entry level business person) actually purchasing their own home is slim to none.

    My department has NO problem recruiting members. We have been getting two to three per month for the past few years. We have a problem RETAINING them as members. We also have a problem keeping members that have a home(before the market went haywire).

    Again, I can only talk about what I see in my area.

    I could see quite a savings on anything you would purchase when settling down. Homes, autos, applainces, clothing, etc..
    True again. However, after these members settle down, how many "big ticket" items will you really buy? I hope to be in my current home for the rest of my life. I think a REAL property tax break, in my case, would save me more money.

    My taxes alone have now gone past the $6000. mark. This is my problem, and in talking to alot of others, it's theirs too.

    Affordable housing? It's being looked into here, and so far it seems to be slow going. Some of these completed apartments being rented as "affordable " housing for volunteers are going for $900. a month. An article in the paper heralding these rentals included quotes from some vols as still not being "affordable" enough!

    I don't know what the answer is, but I feel sorry for anyone looking for a house in my area. "Handyman" specials are listed at 300k+!!

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    Sounds like a great idea, as long as they are "true" volunteers. Im so tired of people calling themselves volunteers when they get paid for calls, or attending drills or manning a station.

    And before anyone jumps all over me for that, pick up your nearest dictionary and look up the word "volunteer".

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    FirePics: I could sell my 1 bedroom condo in Dept. 8's area for almost $300,000. The young guys need to be able to live here, we have gotten a lot of new members, but when they finish school they will never be able to afford to live here! (Who would WANT to live in Dept. 17 area!! ) Anything that helps these guys who live paycheck to paycheck would help!

    As for property taxes, that wouldn't help two-firefighter families like mine, we would only get half the benefit. We also have 2 brothers who live together and many father/sons/daughter who would also lose the benefit.

    I think our property tax exemption last year was worth maybe $70.00, they would have to make it a lot more than the 10% that it is right now!

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    Dave: "Sounds like a great idea, as long as they are "true" volunteers. Im so tired of people calling themselves volunteers when they get paid for calls, or attending drills or manning a station"

    100 percent volunteer in Rockland County, NY, no one gets paid for anything, some of our departments we are lucky to get a free t-shirt every few years.....
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    Again, I thought volunteers weren't in it for the money.

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    Originally posted by ThNozzleman
    Again, I thought volunteers weren't in it for the money.
    It's not about the money. This isn't something were proposed. As far as I'm concerned it's a fring benefit. Sales tax, property tax, whatever - sure it would be nice. Not going to stop me either way from waking up at 3am for A/F abdominal pains or smell of gas.

    Nozz, are you saying that you would file for this if this or any similiar opportunity presented itself?
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    Good intentions, but a bad idea. Hereís why:

    1) Cost, and I donít mean reduced revenue to the government. I donít know how it works in NY, but most everywhere else sales taxes are collected at the time and point of the transaction. Here, in order to make a purchase without paying sales tax, you have to present the correct paperwork and/or have it on file with the merchant. How much would it cost to suddenly add thousands of volunteers to the system? How much would it cost the retailers? Also, in many (probably most or all) states theyíre the ones held responsible if the correct sales taxes arenít collected. What, you didnít collect sales tax from Bubba Joe? He got kicked off Littletown VFD 3 months ago. You owe the state $200 in taxes on that new big screen he bought.

    2) Potential for abuse. Any incentive can be abused, but this one is particularly vulnerable. Again, since it would be granted at the time of sale, Bubba Joe (or someone knowing his tax id) would be doing all the big and medium ticket buying for his parents, his friends, the girl he was after, or even the guy that offered to pay him 50 cents on the dollar for sales taxes saved.

    3) Public perception. Nobody likes to pay taxes. You had better believe the people in line behind you will notice when you buy something and donít have to pay taxes on it. Maybe some will understand but most will wonder what makes their senior center, little league, library, PTA, etc. volunteer work less valuable to society than your work.

    Iím all for incentives, particularly ones that encourage a long term commitment or make it easier on the volunteer to serve the community. Some states have retirement plans based on years of service and member contributions (mine doesnít ). I think those are a great idea. Incentives (like a tax break) to employers that let workers leave and come in late for calls are also great (we don't have those either ) .

    I don't think anything that makes us appear as a special group worthy (or in need of) immediate cash incentives is in the best interests of the volunteer fire service. As vollies, weíre often portrayed as a bunch of thrill seeking whackers. We donít want to be portrayed as a bunch of thrill seeking whackers on the public dole.

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    Some states have retirement plans based on years of service and member contributions
    Trust me. On paper, these sound great. In the real world, they offer 0 incentive to continue answering calls, maintaining training, and putting up with all the other BS that goes along with this.

    Volunteers will continue volunteering only as long as their "heart" is in it. No incentive plan (short of paychecks) will keep them doing it.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Our county is in a quandary, we have one of the highest costs of living, highest property taxes, and high housing costs. A one bedroom apartment in a crime-ridden area goes for $900-1100 a month. We have a base volunteer staff ages 35-50, but very few 18-35. WHY? The kids here go away to college, when they get out, unless they live with their parents, they can't afford to live here. Us 35-50 year olds aren't getting any younger and couldn't have bought our houses when we did if the prices were at todays prices. When we retire, we will have made enough on our houses to sell and move elsewhere, but we won't be able to live here.

    Nozzleman's solution would be to put in a paid fire department. This would increase the taxes and make a tough situation worse.

    We are only a few years from having to do that. Our legislators are trying to figure out a way to make it easier for younger, blue collar or just starting out white collar (which is the demographic of the volunteer firefighter) to live here.

    I do see, however, EFD840's point, this would put an undue burden on the retailers, and a nightmare to police. A solution for this might be for the County to require a form (like is used for the property tax exemption) with documentation of purchases for a refund of some part of the sales taxes. Would YOU save receipts to get this type of refund quarterly or annually? This puts the burden, not on the retailers, but on the government (causing higher taxes.... a viscious circle)
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    Originally posted by fflynn17
    Dave: "Sounds like a great idea, as long as they are "true" volunteers. Im so tired of people calling themselves volunteers when they get paid for calls, or attending drills or manning a station"

    100 percent volunteer in Rockland County, NY, no one gets paid for anything, some of our departments we are lucky to get a free t-shirt every few years.....
    Outstanding

    It just ****es me of when I read posts from people calling themselves volunteers, then talking about how much the get paid per run Its a real sore spot with me cause when a started as a volunteer we got nothin, nada, zip, zilch, $0.00. All we got was uniforms and PPE.
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    just remember that some of that tax money comes back to the fd

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    Hey guys, sorry to kinda hijack your thread here, but as some as pointed out, a sales tax exemption would probably cause more problems than its worth. Not that this is a solution to our retention problem here in Rockland, but a few issues that have been brewing for years are hurting our responses. Our dispatchers @ 44-Control arent really dispatchers. They are simply radio operators. Our depts arent nearly as integrated as they should be, and yeah some of our depts. have standard day time mutual aid agreements, but it isnt enough. In most of our depts, a day time run for a structure fire is only dispatched by our "dispatchers" to one dept. I would venture to say that most if not all of our depts have a hard time getting atleast 1 engine and 1 truck out the door with a full crew of interior FF's. Instead of waiting for a chief to get on the scene, say "Uhoh" and start calling mutual aid and a FAST team after the 1st line is already in operation with 2 guys, and maybe an officer doing a search, why not have the dispatchers automatically dispatch 2 or 3 depts? I think most of our depts can safely get out the door with 1 full rig.
    Ill use VC as an example. We have AMA set up during the daytime, but i still dont believe its enough. If there is a 911 call for a fire in a structure, why not dispatch us for 1st due engine, the next closest truck co. for a truck (Dept 2 and 14 dont have ladders) and a FAST team automatically? I seriously think most of the chiefs in our county arent open minded enough to a big change like this. Each dept can most likely get enough guys to get 1 rig out the door, and if the fire is in your 1st due area and you have more guys, roll 2nd due and/or an addition truck. It cant hurt to have the help on the road.
    I know this has less to do with retention as it does with getting FF's on the scene, but I figured since I found some other people here from Rockland I would post my thoughts.

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    Trust me. On paper, these sound great. In the real world, they offer 0 incentive to continue answering calls, maintaining training, and putting up with all the other BS that goes along with this.
    Hey Bones, don't burst my bubble. At least let me think the grass is greener on the other side...

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    There are some localities that abate the local income tax for volunteers. I don't see a problem with it.

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    Originally posted by nyckftbl
    I seriously think most of the chiefs in our county arent open minded enough to a big change like this. Each dept can most likely get enough guys to get 1 rig out the door, and if the fire is in your 1st due area and you have more guys, roll 2nd due and/or an addition truck. It cant hurt to have the help on the road.
    I know this has less to do with retention as it does with getting FF's on the scene, but I figured since I found some other people here from Rockland I would post my thoughts.
    I'll PM you...
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    Hey sorry I didnt realize my PMs were off fflynn.

    To the people who said that lowering property taxes for volunteers wouldnt work because not many of the younger members own homes, I would like to ask what about the younger members looking to buy a home? Why wouldnt an initial tax rebate of some sort when the house is purchased be incentive?
    I know I would love to spend the next 20 years of my life being a volunteer in Rockland, and now that I have finished school and have a secure but horribly paying job (FDNY), I find it very difficult to see myself staying in Rockland.

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    And before anyone jumps all over me for that, pick up your nearest dictionary and look up the word "volunteer".

    Um, be careful what you ask for your.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-b...y&va=Volunteer

    There's a lot of definitions of "Volunteer" and the compensation one comes pretty low on the list.

    One of my favorite quotes, from a Smithsonian magazine commentary years ago, is, "You volunteered to join. After that, not everything is voluntary."

    ===========
    1) When I joined (1987) I was eventually assigned a cotton-duck coat & an old style (no bump cap, etc) leather helmet. Had to buy your uniform. And had to loan the money for a pager if you didn't want to wait four plus years to come up high enough in the seniority list to be normally assigned one.

    2) Last year, I collected about $1000 in cash compensation from a stipend program based on a convoluted formula of how many First Responder calls and/or Ambulance Transports and/or time on the Ambulance schedule you made, plus the town's contribution to a LOSAP (Retirement) plan.

    Like Bone's said -- that stuff doesn't mean squat to getting people motivated and out of bed for BS calls. I made that since I covered a lot of the early morning/Weekend medical calls.

    The only plan I've seen that's remotely worked was one based on property tax abatements. Of course, that town (which we used to run ambulance too) still only had one or two or three EMTs eventually show up for a medical call -- and 12+ Firefighters most of whom had no medical training but would show up to make their points for the tax plan. They had to re-jigger the plan to try and reduce how many people where responding because people would show up and be JAFOs (Just another something onlooker) because they wanted the $1000 abatement...but that abatement sure wasn't worth going to class or touching patients over.

    The sole, the core of volunteer departments is feeling a sense of purpose -- that you're doing a needed job, you're doing a good job at it, you're doing it with the fair help of others. It's a Maslow's hierarchy thing, and people want a sense of doing a good and important job. A bit of action helps to get the adrenaline going, but for most people that's not why they stick with it, at least not in departments that do anything more than the bare minimum necessary to exist.

    3am taxi cab runs don't instill that, and you have to hope your organization otherwise is strong enough to overcome all the BS calls we do now. Plus your competeting against a plethora of other social forces (more active youth programs, longer working hours & commute times, more active recreation, less sense of community, more keeping up with the jones, more "We've amassed so much debt, we must both work full time")

    Modest payments like these tax plans, LOSAPs, stipends don't do diddly towards that. Maybe the flatten out the declining trend you're on for a few years, but they're not going to miraculously stop the decline.

    Problem is, many communities aren't going to have grown enough to afford full-time departments staffed and equipped to function as well as good volunteer departments that used to serve the community. Yes, the response times might be quicker...but then you lose the ramp up in manpower strong volunteer departments could provide. I think Rockland County was/is similiar to my area -- my department fortunately is one of the last hold outs of good staffing and can still turnout 36 guys to a night-time structure fire (just our company, 18+ of those interior qualified), and daytime takes a bit longer but we can still get 18 guys and 6-10 interior even if the initial attack is awful skinny. Yep, you have your mickey mouse fire companies here too...but at least with a core of good fire companies around them you can put enough Nomex on many situations to overcome that.

    The true solution is you have to bring in paid guys during the days at least to reduce the BS load, reduce the routine work load so the volunteers can focus their time & effort on the "high value" jobs (training & serious incident response); and you have to do that while the volunteers are still strong and still have good leadership. I won't get into all the factors & interactions that can put a volunteer department on a slipperly slope once paid people come -- except to say it's the fault of the volunteers, who've let or had their organizations collapse so much they can't operate effectively. Bring in the paid guys early, when they can help by functioning as aids to the volunteer department and you instill a culture that you're a strong volunteer department and the paid guys are there to handle some of the more time consuming work & BS so the volunteers can focus their time most effectively and remain a strong, effective force. If you wait till you need the paid guys since your vollie side is too weak, the volunteers will just continue to spiral weaker and weaker.
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    FirePics: I could sell my 1 bedroom condo in Dept. 8's area for almost $300,000.
    I know. The house I bought in '96 (dept.9)can now go for about 430k now. It's nothing special. I wouldn't be able to do it now.

    As for some comments like the nozzleman used, I agree. I started doing this 19 years ago and will do it until I'm no longer able. Haven't seen or expect a dime for my service. But like fflynn17 said, Rockland is in a very precarious(sp?) position right now. Try to help the existing volunteers (approx. 3000 countywide) or hurt the entire population by going to a paid service. Unfortunately, it is coming down to the money. Trying to keep some sort of pay parity with the local pd's (easily averaging 80k per year) will cause the local taxes to skyrocket.

    Originally posted by EFD840:I don't think anything that makes us appear as a special group worthy (or in need of) immediate cash incentives is in the best interests of the volunteer fire service. As vollies, weíre often portrayed as a bunch of thrill seeking whackers. We donít want to be portrayed as a bunch of thrill seeking whackers on the public dole.
    Lately, I think we have almost been getting too much press about this. It seems like a double edged sword. We really need this, but I think we may drive people away from our cause by it being in the paper EVERY day.

    Posted by nyckftbl:Our dispatchers @ 44-Control arent really dispatchers. They are simply radio operators.
    We have been having this same discussion in our FD. Other countys have "alarm assignments", 1st alarm gets X number of responding apparatus. 2nd alarm, 3rd alarm, etc.

    Why does this county insist on still being so self absorbed that some chief's still demand that THEY are the only ones that can say who responds into their district?

    I seriously think most of the chiefs in our county arent open minded enough to a big change like this.
    Some are. But they meet so much resistance from the County that it falls on deaf ears.


    PM me. I'd like to get in on this conversation with you and fflynn17.
    Maybe start a new thread and see if anyone else has had this happen or have changed it to a new system.

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    Originally posted by nyckftbl
    Hey sorry I didnt realize my PMs were off fflynn.

    To the people who said that lowering property taxes for volunteers wouldnt work because not many of the younger members own homes, I would like to ask what about the younger members looking to buy a home? Why wouldnt an initial tax rebate of some sort when the house is purchased be incentive?
    I know I would love to spend the next 20 years of my life being a volunteer in Rockland, and now that I have finished school and have a secure but horribly paying job (FDNY), I find it very difficult to see myself staying in Rockland.
    You are the exact volunteer that these measures are aimed at. An incentive such as a sales tax REBATE (annually, quarterly)could help you save for the down payment on that house. As it is, by the time you are ready to buy, you might not even be able to afford Orange County.

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    Nozz, are you saying that you would file for this if this or any similiar opportunity presented itself?
    I'm not sure what you're asking. I'd give the moon and stars to "volunteers". I think they should ALL be at least paid-on-call and held to higher standards. It's just the "we do it for love/you do it for a paycheck" crap that comes up here so often that bugs me. Also, I've heard of departments in areas where "volunteers" get certain perks and incentives, and that the rolls are jammed with hundreds of members who are "inactive", yet still get the perks that are meant to compensate active firefighters. How do you police this and keep members of the community from abusing the system? Is it up to the department, or is there another entity that controls these things?

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    and held to higher standards
    After reading about some of these departments...how about just standards at all.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Originally posted by Bones42
    After reading about some of these departments...how about just standards at all.
    I hope you aren't trying to say this about Rockland county, we have one of the best training centers around. I don't know of a single department that doesn't require at LEAST FF1 to be interior, plus additional requirements for officers and drivers.

    Nozz, our village polices our ONLY perk which is the LOSAP program. They require documentation for all members continuing to be on the active rolls, with a certain percent of calls made, training requirements, drill requirements, etc.
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