Hartford eyes first responder tax exemption

Hartford will hold a public hearing next month on a proposal to grant active members of the Hartford Volunteer Fire Department a 10% exemption on their property taxes in recognition of the service they provide to the community.
The proposal comes after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law late last year authorizing local governments to offer the tax break to first responders.

The law “will help improve recruitment and retention of our volunteer fire and ambulance services,” Assemblyman Matt Simpson wrote in a letter notifying local officials of the state action.
The exemption would be available to active members of the fire department with at least two years of service, supervisor Dana Haff said. First responders who have at least 20 years of active service would be granted a life exemption, as long as they maintain their residence in the town, he said.

Owning a residence in the town is another of the requirements to qualify for the exemption, Haff said. The residence must be the firefighter’s primary home; summer homes would not qualify, he noted.
Because of the restrictions, not all of the fire department’s three dozen members would qualify for the exemption, which would limit the financial impact of granting the break on the town, Haff said.

Actual numbers were not immediately available, but Haff noted that the town’s current tax rate is $4.92 per $1,000 of assessed property value, so a 10% exemption would reduce a property owner’s tax by 49.2 cents per $1,000 – a reduction that would reduce the property tax on a home assessed at $100,000 by less than $50.
The impact also would not be immediate, Haff added. The state law makes the local ordinance effective three years after it is approved, he said.

That timing prompted the town board to move forward with the public hearing more quickly than it would usually. Haff had initially proposed allowing the board members to study the proposal, then vote to schedule the public hearing at their next meeting.

However, that timetable would make the local law go into effect no sooner than the board’s March meeting, which would be held after the town assessment rolls are set on March 1. The delay would mean the exemption would not be available until the following year’s tax season – making it four years before those qualifying would receive the tax break, Haff said.

By voting this month to set the public hearing in February, the law could go into effect prior to the assessment rolls being finalized – enabling those who qualify to take advantage of the exemption a year sooner, he said.
If board members or members of the public had any concerns about the local law, the proposal could be amended at the February meeting, with a vote to be taken at the same meeting, he said.