Lehigh Valley

Forks Township supervisors discuss possible tax credit for volunteer firefighters

FORKS TWP., Pa. - The Forks Township supervisors discussed a possible tax credit incentive that would be available for the township's volunteer firefighters.

During a work session Thursday night, the board analyzed a possible refundable tax credit, specifically an earned income tax credit for volunteers who are residents in the township.

Forks Township Fire Chief Chuck Gallagher said township residents make up 90% of the volunteer staff.

The board also examined how other municipalities are providing incentives to volunteer firefighters.

Supervisor Erik Chuss said Alburtis Township gave a $500 earned income tax credit. Weisenberg Township pays volunteers per call with the amount based on the rank of the officer, according to Chuss.

Volunteers would need to meet certain requirements to qualify. The incentive would examine how active the volunteer is in the department based on how many calls, meetings and events they have attended, according to Gallagher.

While most of the board members expressed their approval, some worried that it could become a financial obligation later.

"My biggest fear (is) future contract negotiations," Chairman John O'Neil said. "I'm thinking about it coming out of a budget that we count on."

Gallagher said Emmaus Fire Chief John Price is helping to walk them through the process. Gallagher said at one time, Emmaus paid their volunteers per call, but then they unionized demanding pay. Price said he was at the meeting.

Discussions between the fire department and board are still ongoing. No costs involved with the incentive have been determined.

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