DELMAR, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Bethlehem Central School District (BCSD) will offer a discount on school property taxes to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers. The resolution was approved by the district’s board of education on Wednesday.
The decision will provide eligible volunteers who have at least two years of service under their belt with a 10% school property tax exemption on their primary residence.
The board’s adoption of the Volunteer Firefighters and Volunteer Ambulance Workers’ Tax Exemption comes after a new state law was signed by Governor Kathy Hochul in December to help communities attract and retain volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers. That law, Chapter 670 of the Laws of 2022, gives individual municipalities the right to approve a partial tax exemption for their community emergency services volunteers.
“One of BCSD’s core values is community, and we work to help our students become engaged community members,” said Board of Education president Holly Dellenbaugh. “Our volunteer first responders are terrific role models for our students. This is an opportunity to support our neighborhood volunteers and to encourage younger generations to join their ranks.”
Bethlehem Central is one of the first school districts in the state to grant the partial tax exemption to first responders under the new law.
“Thank you to the Bethlehem Central School District for recognizing the need to increase the number of volunteer firefighters and EMS providers,” said Edward Tase, president of the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY). “There is great value in this initiative as a recruiting tool for new volunteer firefighters. The Bethlehem Central board has set the groundwork for other municipalities. I really can’t say enough how much it means, not just for recruiting volunteers in the Bethlehem community but all across the state of New York.”
The board’s action does not provide an automatic exemption. Qualified volunteers must apply for the exemption.
To receive the school tax exemption in the 2023-24 school year, first responders in the Bethlehem Central School District will have to act quickly. The application deadline is March 1.
Completed applications for the BCSD exemption must be submitted to the town assessor in the town where the individual resides. The school district includes parts of Bethlehem and New Scotland.
The application is available now online. Applicants will also need to check with their volunteer fire or ambulance company to make sure they qualify and can be certified as a member of the fire company, fire department, or ambulance service.
The partial exemption would become permanent, under the resolution, for volunteers after 20 years of service as long as they still live in the school district. The tax exemption would also be extended for the lifetime of a surviving, non-remarried spouse of a dead volunteer.
Volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers who have questions about the exemption should contact their local assessor’s office.