The Shawangunk Town Board was asked to consider adopting a local law that would make volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers eligible for a 10 percent tax reduction on their property taxes.
Eric Orr, president of the Hudson Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association, asked the board to consider the local law at the January 19 Town Board meeting.
The New York State Legislature, on December 9, 2022, amended the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) to authorize municipalities to permit enrolled volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers to immediately apply for 10 percent property tax reductions for their primary residences.
“The new law allows for an exemption of up to 10 percent of the assessed valuation of the primary residence,” Orr told the board. “This law has no fiscal impact to your tax levy. The exemption functions like the veteran’s exemption and spreads the tax levy across those persons who are not eligible volunteer firefighters or volunteer ambulance workers.”
Orr explained that the tax exemption applies only to the applicable tax levy where it gets approved whether it’s Ulster County, the Town of Shawangunk and special districts (fire districts and the school district).
“It requires a specific opt-in by each local government,” Orr said. “That entity must determine a minimum service term requirement of eligibility. The law says two to five years. I would ask that you consider the two-year timeframe as well as a procedure to verify that that volunteer is still active.”
Orr said the tax breaks could also help retain volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.
“It is a good opportunity for retention I think,” Orr said.
Supervisor John Valk said the firefighters and EMS personnel “wouldn’t get a benefit until next January when the tax bill goes out” if the exemptions are granted.
“The school district may be different,” Valk said. “Their (tax bills) come out in September.”
In other news, the board voted 4-0 to approve Local Law No. 1 (Gateway Zone).
“The zoning was too restrictive before,” Valk said. “This should make it more attractive for businesses to locate there.”
Wallkill’s Gateway Zone is located north and east of the hamlet along State Routes 208 and 300.
The board accepted “with regrets” the resignation of highway and planning board clerk Robin Kaufman.
The board voted 4-0 to approve hiring Anne Barnhart to do some of the work until a replacement is found for Kaufman.
“She’s willing to work in all the departments to help out from time to time,” Valk said of Barnhart. “I would call it a floating clerk until we resolve how we’re going to fill these slots. If it was a full-time slot, we would make it attractive for somebody to have benefits and everything else. Part-time they don’t have that.”
The starting salary is $16.45 an hour and will increase to $17.05 an hour in July.
The board approved up to three town officials to attend the New York Association of Towns’ annual meeting on February 19-22 in New York City.
The cost of each individual to attend is estimated at $900 per person, according to Valk.
Town Justice Kevin Hunt and Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer Robert Wallner have indicated they would like to attend, Valk said.
Planning Board Chairman Mark Watkins suggested that it would be beneficial for Ryan Reid of the Zoning Board of Appeals to attend.
“I think he would benefit a lot from that because there’s so much information right there in a couple of days,” Watkins said. “The people that are teaching the classes there are top notch.”
Valk said the board will see if Reid wishes to attend.