With more than 80% of Ohio’s fire departments manned at least partly by volunteers and the number willing to take on the duty falling, the Ohio Legislature hopes tax incentives will create a renewed interest.
State Reps. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, and Thomas Hall, R-Madison Township, introduced legislation Thursday that provides tax credits for the state’s volunteer firefights, volunteer EMS personnel and volunteer peace officers, offering tax breaks based on years of service.
“This legislation will bring much needed relief to some of the greatest Ohioans among us,” Edwards said. “They truly are the unsung heroes who encounter countless situations to secure the safety of our lives and property, and as volunteers, they do so without compensation.”
The tax credits begin at $500 per year for those with less than five years of service and increases to $1,000 a year for six-10 years of service. For those with 11 or more years, the credit jumps to $2,000 a year.
According to FEMA’s National Fire Department Registry, 60.7% of Ohio’s fire departments operate completely with volunteers, and another 21.2% are mostly volunteer. Only 12.6% are manned fully with career firefighters. In all, there are 1,133 registered fire departments in the state.
By comparison, 98.3% of fire departments in Delaware are volunteer, with Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and North Dakota more than 95% volunteer. All of the District of Columbia’s departments are career, and Hawaii’s are 91.7% career. Florida, at 53.5%, is the only other state that has more than 50% of its fire departments career.
The number of volunteers are falling in Ohio, a news release from Edwards and Hall said, and they hope to encourage more people to join forces and remain longer.
“While the tax credits provided in this legislation would only be a small token of our appreciation for these volunteers’ sacrifices, the tax credits can go a long way to remove a heavy tax burden from them and their families,” Hall said.
The bill has not been assigned to a House committee.