KILLINGLY, CT– Killingly town and fire officials are working to amend a property tax relief ordinance in an effort to make it fairer for all firefighters in town to meet eligibility requirements.
The ordinance, which covers tax relief for public safety volunteers, currently sets the same standards for all volunteer firefighters in town, regardless of how busy their departments are. And that’s a problem, South Killingly Fire Chief Seth DeAngelis said.
Under the current system, each of the town’s departments can earn a maximum number of “points” each year. The number of points varies from station to station depending on its call volume.
Firefighters can earn a different number of points for attending drills or training, responding to fire or EMS calls or attending meetings.
“But the way the ordinance is currently written, a firefighter, no matter which department they work for, had to obtain 25 percent of the total points to be eligible for the tax relief,” DeAngelis said. “In a small department with fewer overall points to reach and fewer calls, a firefighter might only have to go to 40 calls to be eligible. But in a bigger department, like Danielson or Dayville, a firefighter would have to go to three times as many calls to hit the threshold to get the tax break.”
The amended ordinance, which goes to public hearing in August, varies the percentage level for each department based on call volume.
For a department with 200 or fewer calls a year, a firefighter would still have to earn 25 percent of the total points. The threshold drops to 20 percent for departments handling 400 calls annually and to 15 percent for those stations responding to 600 calls a year.
The amount of tax relief a public safety volunteer can earn is dependent on length of service, Town Manager Sean Hendricks said.
“For up to two years of service, a person receives the equivalent of $200 in tax breaks, while someone with 16 or more years on the job can get $1,000 — the maximum allowable,” he said.
Hendricks said the town typically pays out about $50,000 each year through the tax relief program, which is open to active volunteer members of KB Ambulance Corp.
“This proposed change would increase that by about $10,000,” he said. “What this really does is make the whole program more fair and equitable across the board.”
DeAngelis said there’s only a handful of his firefighters that were eligible for the tax break last year.
“Maybe five people, since a lot of volunteers don’t stay longer than two years,” he said.
___ (c)2017 Norwich Bulletin, Conn. Visit Norwich Bulletin, Conn. at www.norwichbulletin.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.