Wednesday, April 25, 2007

TOWN BD TO SET HEARING FOR MAY 23RD TO PROIVDE EXEMPTIONS FOR VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS

The Greenburgh Town Board will vote tonight to set a public hearing for Wednesday, May 23rd at 7:15 PM at Greenburgh Town Hall to consider a local law to provide exemptions for members of volunteer fire depts.
I support the legislation which was authorized by the State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor granting localities the ability to offer such exemptions. The volunteer fire depts save the taxpayers millions of dollars. The volunteers risk their lives for our community and are on call round the clock.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Paul and the Town Board . why don't we just pay them ? They already have a retirement plan that doesn't work. The village firefighters get access to the pools which they do not pay taxes
for. We are not getting a good return for our money. Every volunteer FD has to call mutual aid for even little fires beacause they don't have manpower especially during the Day. Also while we're at it it's a waste of money to have a Greenburgh Tech Rescue team with police officers. Talk about duplication. They should fight crime not play firefighter.

Anonymous said...

We have paid firefighters in Greenville. The last big house fire, off of Seely Place, saw help from White Plains, Scarsdale, etc, BUT NOT ARDSELY. Why does Town have to subsidize benefits for only part of town?

Anonymous said...

Please don't forget the volunteer EMS personnel, who I believe are also effected by this bill.

Jon said...

I wholeheartedly support the proposal for tax exemption. The reality is that volunteers are an essential component of the fire service.

Fighting a fire and providing storm assistance are incredibly manpower intensive. Mutual aid is invoked by all departments -- volunteer, career and combination -- because no village can afford to maintain in quarters, every day the career staff needed to fight a fire

One commentator referred to the Seely Place fire. There were more than 11 Greenville Volunteer Firefighters actively engaged in fighting that fire. Likewise, this past week's storm had 13 Greenville volunteers working almost 24 hours straight assisting residents with pump-outs and other emergencies. In each situation volunteers provided almost 2 full shifts of trained-up firefighters.

In other words, if there were no volunteers, you would have to triple the size of the career department to provide the coverage that the combination department allowed.

One last point, when members of a combination department go to assist another department that has requested mutual aid, volunteer members of the combination department fill in the station house -- providing fire district coverage.

So, for anyone who claims that volunteer firefighters do not provide a "good return", I say that you are using fuzzy math.

Michael Kolesar said...

Dear Anonymous 4/25 3:07 PM,

It sure would be nice if you had the courage to identify yourself. Your posting highlighted Ardsley in caps. Why? Was the Ardsley Fire Department called and couldn't respond?

What the blogger didn't comment on or question is where was the Fairview Fire Department? After all, they have received some $300,000 or $400,000 of Town wide funds and according to some Town council members, these funds were "gifted" to them because they provide some kind of Town wide service. When and where?

As to the general point, what exactly is being proposed. Before everyone gets up in arms, are we talking about an additional exemption of $500 in assessed value, which for any volunteer in a Village amounts to about $35 per year in lower taxes?

Anonymous said...

Why don't volunteer firefighters have to meet the same high standards as a career firefighter?

Anonymous said...

Kolesar raises valid points.

How much will this latest bennie cost taxpayers in the unincorporated areas and how much will it cost taxpayers in the villages?

And more to the point, why is this information never forthcoming from the supervisor?

Subsidizing volunteer firefighters sounds like it might be a good idea -- but shouldn't we be told how much it will cost? Shouldn't we also want to know how the town will go about awarding this benefit? What if a resident volunteers for a year and then quits? Does he or she still get the benefit? What if he or she quits for a very good reason, like being injured on the job? What happens then?

Jon said...

Anonymous, what is your basis for saying volunteers do not meet the same high standards? Volunteers are required to take and pass state training courses if they are to be interior firefighters. Additional state training courses in other areas (survival, technical rescue, etc) also are taken. All this is in addition to regular drills.

Of course, volunteers have their income-paying job to do. But please do not disparage the effort or training of volunteers.

As regards how benefits are awarded, it can be as simple as the chief of the department certifying a list of individuals in the department who have satisfied specified criteria at year end (this list can include line of duty injured). If someone quits, obviously, they do not make the list that year.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:45 PM just sound like an unhappy firefighter trying to justify his existance.The Greenburgh Tech Rescue team is a combination of career firefighters and police officers.

hal samis said...

"Jon" writes like he is known to all by sharing this with us so he must be right. No one can throw him among that rabble named anonymouse.

As Mr Kolesar has pointed out the tempest in a teapot is the princely reward of about $35.
To me that is the pay scale for someone who has been trained well enough to know that fire is hot.

If Mike is right or even within a stone throw of being right, the proposal is an insult and should be increased either twentyfold or withdrawn entirely. It has all the watermarks of acting like acknowledgement and gratitude for public service but the real world buying power of the cost of the gas spent driving their personal cars to the firehouse.

Of course they also get to use the Town Pool. Anyone remember the TV show, "The Price is Right"? Today with Ebay we can easily establish how much this right is worth but I suspect that if a firefighter dutifully reported this perk as income, few tax brackets would be exceeded from this "giveaway".

Understood that these people are mere volunteers and could just as well be called upon to save their own home on fire but the concept is to show some gratitude for their actual service or their commitment to be available to serve. $35 is pocket change.

Though it does fall somewhere below the Michael Bloomberg platinum standard of municipal insensitivity from withholding benefits to WTC early responders who have fallen victim to undisputed medical problems arising from "there was something about the air quality afterall". Mr. Bloomberg said the City couldn't afford to take care of these heroes.

Likewise in Greenburgh, home to "where so much fuss over so little while giving so much back in return" is the plat du jour.

Of course I must remind everyone that while all this fretting over nickels and dimes continues, the 30 million of dollars for the Library expansion troubles no one.

Having hopefully established that I favor the assessment proposal, I am still "honor bound" to point out the flaw in Jon's response. When the tax bills go out and the assessment savings has become a permanent part of the billing, the reduction is good for the entire year even if the volunteer quits the next day. So it not so "obvious" that they won't make "the list".

That said, in those hundreds of cases, the Town will have to eat the $35 loss under the current proposal (per Mike). But fortunately we have the Credit Union rent to cushion the financial burden.

Anonymous said...

Michael Kolesar -apparently your not too bright. Fairview FD was at the Seely Pl. fire. so was Yonkers, White Plains, Hartsdale and Scarsdale. It just does not make sense to give another tax break to these volunteers who do not show up all the time. The word volunteer means to do something for no pay.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 0121 am,
it's a duplication of services to have 5 or 6 Police officers train for rescue, when you have 100 highy trained firefighters in the town already

Michael Kolesar said...

Dear Anonymous 4/26 2:11 AM,

If you are unwilling to identify yourself, please refrain from your personal insults. The posting didn't refer to Fairview, so if your information is correct, that's new information.

You didn't answer whether Ardsley was even called. Were they? If so, what is your knowledge based on. Anonymous blogging is for those with no courage.

To add to Mr. Samis' comments, the Town Board / Administration ought to make public prior to the public meeting an approximation of how many properties would be impacted and the estimated impact. I've done this in Ardsley on similiar legislation.

The provisions usually require an annual "recertification" that a property owner is still a member in good standing of the organization in order to qualify for the tax abatement. That requires a certain minimum attendance at training sessions and responses to emergency calls. There is I seem to recall a state set minimum.

As to those in unincorporated Greenburgh who don't know the facts, in the case of the Ardsley Engine Company, of the total assessed value of property that they protect, approximately 32% lies in unincorporated Greenburgh. Volunteers cover portions of unincorporated Greenburgh from Hastings, Irvington, Tarrytwon and Elmsford as well as Ardsley.

Anonymous said...

Sheehan,not taking the volunteers out of order was uncalled for. You made them wait till almost the end. Did you ever stop to realize who runs the circus. WHO DIED AND LEFT YOU BOSS.you're the one who disrupts every dam meeting. you are becoming a laughing stock of Greenburgh.Many people have lives beyond attending meetings.You must have a miserable life because you demonstrate so much hatred .You are still a young man,to change your ways. I would have loved to see you act like a nut when Veteran was supervisor. You would have resigned before you started.If Feiner does not win the election I hope the person in charge will put you in your place.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean I can just join a fd and get an exemption? What if I live in an area that is covered by a paid FD?

Anonymous said...

Did you watch the Town Bd meeting last night? Sheehan and Bass showed how much they disregard the volunteers. A group of volunteer firefighters and ambulance corp members were at the meeting, waiting to speak about problems with the suggested legislation that had failed to recognize volunteer ambulance corp members. We waited, waited, waited to speak. At around 10:30 Supervisor Feiner suggested that one representative of our group be able to speak, out of turn. Councilwoman Juettner was not in attendance. Barnes voted with Feiner. Sheehan and Bass showed a great disregard for the volunteers. They refused to let us speak. Thankfully, one of the volunteers stayed to speak around midnight.
Volunteers give alot to the community. We are on call all the time. Why did Bass & Sheehan show so much disrespect to the volunteers who put everyone else first? Why did Bass & Sheehan refuse to give us the courtesy of speaking at a reasonable hour?

Check out Sheehan's Past said...

Sheehan won't be curtious to Volunteer Firemen even though he claims his son is one. Twelve years ago Sheehan led a Committee that wanted to consolidate the three fire districts. This would have eliminated Union jobs. Sheehan left out his Chairmanship of this Committee in his political literature because he feared it would upset the paid firefighter's union. The Firefighter's Union remembers Sheehan and watches his moves very closely. If Sheehan appears to be too friendly toward Volunteers, he might not get their support. That is why he behaved the way he did the other night. Bass follows Sheehan's lead 95% of the time so he just fell quickly in line.

Anonymous said...

Sheehan your son should have become a volunteer with the police dept,considering the fiasco of twelve years ago,with the fire dept.Does he not know of your previous track record that was not mentioned in your hoopla to get elected to the board.We don.t forget.All volunteers are needed. Your aid who in essence is doing volunteer work ,gets a salary,and you poopooed all the volunteers who were present at the meeting,who give their time and energy without receiving compensation.Above all they save the taxpayers a bundle of money.You're not for the people of Greenburgh.You are only out to destroy what people worked so hard to make their own.

Anonymous said...

If the volunteers wanted to speak at the meeting, they should have to wait like everyone else. It's a late night for everyone. what are they special? Also we do not have any volunteer ambulance workers working for the town, only in the villages. Plus they keep saying they do it for free,that's bull! If they get a tax break to go along with the "wasted incentive" plan they receive, as far as I'm concerned they are not voluntees because they are receiving compensation.

Anonymous said...

To the previous nut,how much is the exemption.Do you know what the amount comes up to,check it out before you state your stupid opinion.You sound like Sheehan writing the comment,or maybe is this Kaminer voicing your views.

volunteer ambulance corp member said...

francis sheehan and steve bass should have shown more respect for volunteer ambulance corp members who waited hours to speak. They are so rigid, don't show any flexibility. They don't look at the big picture. I voted for Francis and Steve in the past. Not anymore.

Anonymous said...

being so disrespectful not only to the volunteers who attended the meeting,but also to the public who need their services shows how many people made a mistake in voting in these board members.Sheehan has complete control of the four board members,but Bass who is running for reelection followed him like the puppy dog that he is ,in voicing his opinion not to allow the volunteers to speak .The volunteers never think twice what their duties are to the public.What we need is more volunteers ,in all positions where the public can save tax dollars.Sheehan you should be ashamed of yourself ,after stating that your son is a volunteer .What do his buddies think of your decision ?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Francis and Steve, We do not care about volunteers from the village ambulance corps.
If you want to volunteer, then do it for free.

disappointed in steve & francis said...

Francis Sheehan and Steve Bass don't look at the big picture. Local government should not be rigid. Officials should show appreciation to volunteers who give their time to our community for our betterment.

volunteers deserve an apology from town bd said...

Francis Sheehan and Steve Bass should have shown some leniency. The volunteer firefighters and ambulance corp members need rest, they are on call day, night, weekends. They should have been given the opportunity to speak early in the evening. Sheehan and Bass owe our dedicated volunteers an apology.

Anonymous said...

I finally agree with Francis and Steve.
The volunteers do not need to be compensated, if they are compensated then they're not volunteers anymore. Tell them to take the civil service test if they want to be compensated firefighters.

Feiner wrong again said...

Leave it to Feiner to be on the wrong side of yet another issue.

Giving volunteer firefighters a break on their property taxes, even if so small as to be largely symbolic, as it is here, is a nice gesture but it can't work in Greenburgh because, by state law, the exemption can't apply in fire districts which employ five or more full-time firemen.

That means the exemption can't apply, for example, to volunteers in the Greenville and Fairview fire districts, because those districts, which serve most of unincorporated Greenburgh, have five or more full-time firemen.

So, for example, none of the dozens of volunteers in Greenville, which serves Edgemont, can qualify for the exemption. Likewise, none of the volunteers who serve Fairview can qualify either.

That being the case, this is a benefit that Greenburgh cannot adopt without discriminating against a wide section of its population.

Not a surprise then that the only member of Greenburgh's elected government that seems to favor the idea is Feiner.

If Feiner really thinks volunteer firefighters deserve a tax break in Greenburgh, he would have been well advised to spend his time asking Albany to rewrite the law.

But no. This is Feiner. Instead, he spends his time grandstanding about the importance of giving away bennies to our local volunteer firefighters.

Jim Lasser said...

Each of the independent fire districts is also an independent taxing authority. If exempting volunteer fire fighters and amublance workers and even, dare it be said, auxiliary police officers is a good idea, shouldn't the local board of fire commissioners be making that choice, not the Town? For many folks in Greenville, and probably Hartsdale and Fairview, our fire district taxes have become a significant part of our annual total property tax burden. Providing significant relief may be appropriate and justifiable, but why not let the folks who need to make budget decisions about that specific item also decide whether volunteer service should be recognized with fire district property tax exemptions rather than townwide tax exemptions? If such a system of exemptions turns out to be too expensive for a fire district, might it not also be too expensive for the Town?
I'm neither for nor against exemptions. I think the discussions need to focus on just whose responsibility it is to provide those services and to shift to a governmental level which has no jurisdiction is to invite political posturing from those who will not have the financial responsibility. It may generate less press and fewer photo-ops but the results will likely be better.

Anonymous said...

Feiner is wrong again forgot to mention that the entire Town Board opted to schedule a vote to give volunteer firefighters tax breaks. I don't think that Feiner is alone on this vote.