ENOLA, Pa. (WHTM) – The East Pennsboro Township Board of Commissioners voiced unanimous support of a new tax that would help fund its local fire companies.
On Wednesday evening, the board voted to approve the proposed fire tax, which would cost property owners about $19 per year, based on a home value of $100,000. The tax now becomes part of the overall 2016 budget proposal and will be discussed further at a public meeting scheduled for December 2.
“I would almost guarantee my fellow firefighters that there is going to be a fire tax,” said board president John Kuntzleman, who is also a volunteer firefighter. “It’s not a done deal. We’re probably going to have people come in at the public hearing, but I think with the board of commissioners I have right now, we’re in favor of doing something for the firefighters.”
Several volunteer firefighters and members of the township’s multiple fire companies attended the meeting and reinforced support for the tax.
“Everybody freaks out when they hear the word tax, but I don’t care how you guys do it,” said John Breeding, who identified himself as a fire policeman. “It needs to get done.”
Several residents questioned why the board doesn’t enact a general property tax increase which would flood the township’s general fund with more dollars it could simply give to the fire department. A senior citizen asked whether the separate fire tax could be deducted from his federal income taxes. Commissioners say they are still working out details of how the tax would be collected and distributed.
Firefighters say a standalone fire tax is preferred, because it specifically allocates funds to be used by emergency services every year. The added funds would help with the purchase and upkeep of fire company equipment and infrastructure, and ease the burden on long hours endured by volunteers who need to constantly hold fundraisers in the community.
“If it’s in the general fund, and something happens, they (the township) can take it from us,” fire department spokesman John Bruetsch added. “And then every year, we’re back here again.”
The complete East Pennsboro Township 2016 budget proposal including details of the new fire tax is expected to be made public on the township website on Thursday. Law requires it be advertised for a period of three weeks and a public hearing take place before a vote can occur.
If approved, the entire budget including the new fire tax would take effect on January 1.