Village authorizes fire department as 501(c)(3)

The Homer Fire Department. (Photo provided by the Village of Homer).

Mahlon Irish took on the long, and sometimes tedious process of transitioning the Homer Fire Department’s (HFD) financial accounts to its own.

On Tuesday, the village of Homer Board of Trustees completed the process by authorizing HFD as a 501(c)(3) organization.

With HFD becoming a 501(c)(3), any donations to the department made by individuals to the nonprofit corporation are now 100% tax deductible. This also includes funds raised by the department.

This officially designates HFD – an all-volunteer department – as a tax-exempt organization.

“It took us a long time,” said Irish, a former HFD chief who assists in day-to-day operations. “We’re glad the village approved it. It makes it a much simpler accounting process for both groups. It incorporates the membership of our fire department.”

According to Irish, HFD used the village’s employee identification number (EIN) for all of its fundraising and donations.

Following an audit from the bank that wondered about the oversight of HFD’s accounts, the department looked into acquiring its own EIN to become a 501(c)(3) organization.

HFD was briefly a 501(c)(4) organization before making the transition to 501(c)(3), Irish said. But now, HFD has officially taken the liability for the village to account for (the department’s) treasury.

Jay Riley, HFD’s current chief, noted the department’s fundraising events – like the chicken barbecue, field days and more – are now tax exempt.

“It’s huge,” Riley said. “We get all of our funds we raised, and get through donations. Any money we get goes back to the membership. Our money is our money.”

Irish said the department’s movement into a 501(c)(3) organization doesn’t affect the operation of HFD in regards to the village. 

“(The village) still gets to make rules and regulations because they own the fire department,” Irish said. “It just allows us to better handle our finances.”

Irish was unsure of the average amount of donations and raised funds that the department receives on an annual basis. He noted it varies year-to-year, ranging from various events to donations from organizations to families of loved ones who volunteered with HFD.