Local town sets public hearing date on first responder tax break

(Photo via Pexels).

A town board in Cortland County set a public hearing date for a law that would provide local volunteer first responders with a 10% property tax exemption.

The Cortlandville town board scheduled the public hearing for June 7, its first meeting of the month.

Town Attorney John DelVecchio drafted a copy of the law in late April. It mirrors a similar proposal at the county level adopted by county legislators. 

The local law would grant volunteer firefighters of the Cortlandville Fire Department a tax exemption based on 10% off their assessed property value. To qualify, residents have to be registered with the department for at least two years. An application and certification must be filed with the town’s property value assessor every year to qualify for the tax relief.

The property also has to be the volunteer’s primary residence. A volunteer of 20 years can qualify for a lifetime exemption, the law states. 

The law also includes some provisions to provide the tax exemption to the spouses of deceased volunteer firefighters. 

A spouse of a deceased firefighter who lost their life in the line of duty who has not remarried would continue to receive the 10% exemption if the deceased volunteer had been a member of the department for the previous five years. That tenure requirement would change to 20 years for the spouses of deceased firefighters who did not lose their life in the line of duty.

Town Board member Gregory Leach asked how the town’s exemption would mesh with other benefits already afforded by the state. Specifically, Leach wanted to know if firefighters would be able to apply for an exemption with the town while also getting a school tax relief (STAR) exemption. 

The STAR exemption applies to low income homeowners making under $250,000 per year.

“The STAR exemption applies only to your school tax bill,” said town clerk Kristin Rocco-Petrella, clarifying the difference between both programs. “Our exemption in this local law would be to help with property taxes.”