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By Lawrence J Kaznica
A long-standing $500 pittance given to emergency responders as compared to the ever-rising cost of property taxes in Niagara County, first responders could see a noticeable tax break very soon.
Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey, 10th legislative district, reported to the Wheatfield Town Board on Monday that a significant tax break equaling 10% of total property taxes incurred could likely take place later this year, pending county approval.
“All my fellow legislators are behind it. I feel good about this,” Godfrey said. “This will increase retention and recruitment. I got $500 a year and that is nothing.
He said COVID-19 has worn down first responders over the past two years, and noted registered EMTs are harder to find than ever.
“The county is not taking over EMS, that is very important to remember,” Godfrey reminded the board. “There are legal and financial issues.”
According to state estimates, volunteer first responders participation is down by more than 33% since the turn of the century, from approximately 125,000 to 75,000 across New York state.
In other board action:
•Council members heard from Town Clerk Kathy Harrington, who reminded residents the date for paying property taxes is Tuesday, Jan. 31.
•Town Assessor Kelli Coughlin reported to the board there are certain exceptions for seniors, which push the date back to March 1.
•Approved the request from Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann for the purchase of a new Ford F-350 pickup truck for $46,572 to be paid from the Highway Department’s equipment budget.
•Approved bill payments for the general fund, $37,426; highway fund, $74,334; water/sewer fund, $27,595; fire, $29,540; lighting, $155; refuse, $101,398; and prepaid $53,742.