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Chester County Press

Board votes to give tax breaks to volunteer firefighters

12/13/2016 12:15PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

In a move intended to boost the dwindling population of volunteer firefighters in the township, the London Grove Board of Supervisors voted to enact tax relief for those who serve on a voluntary basis at the Avondale and West Grove fire companies, up to 20 percent. Their vote came at the board's Dec. 7 meeting.
It will become a township ordinance and go into effect in 2017.
The board's 4-0 vote puts into action Act 172 of 2016, introduced in the Pennsylvania House as HB 1683 and approved by Gov. Wolf on Nov. 21, which authorizes municipalities in the commonwealth to enact a tax credit against an active volunteer's tax liability, as a financial incentive to acknowledge the value and the absence of any public cost for volunteer fire protection and nonprofit emergency medical services provided by active volunteers. It also serves as an incentive for those who are considering joining or rejoining local voluntary fire departments.
In thanking supervisors Dave Connors and Robert Weer for introducing the initiative to the board, board chairman Richard Scott-Harper said, “One of the problems in the State of Pennsylvania is that it's getting harder and harder for a volunteer fire company to provide the services that many of us need. Giving the volunteers some kind of tax credit, I think, is a great idea.” 
Under the guidelines of the act, the township has the right to set the total amount of the tax credit that will be offered to an individual, which the supervisors suggested would be the maximum 20 percent. The act also states that the township will give public notice of its intent to adopt an ordinance or resolution to establish a tax credit, and conduct at least one public hearing on the issue, at least 30 days prior to the adoption of the ordinance or resolution.
The act gives the volunteer the right to claim a tax credit provided for under this chapter when filing a joint return. The tax return form shall provide a mechanism for separating the liability of an individual for any earned income tax imposed by the school district of residence from the liability of an individual for any earned income tax imposed by the municipality.
Weer said that the tax credit would affect as many as 20 volunteer firefighters who live in London Grove Township.
In other township business, Scott-Harper read from a prepared statement, in response to thesettlement agreement and general release the board signed and approved with former township manager Steve Brown at its Nov. 30 meeting. Brown was relieved of his services to the township in November.
“I thank the London Grove community for the privilege of serving as the manager for nearly 15 years,” Brown's portion of the statement read. “I developed great relationships and friends, and felt that we accomplished much together. It was a great experience. I wish the London Grove community and the township organization the very best in the future.”
“The board is very appreciative of Steve's 15 years of service to London Grove. He has represented our community with respect and dignity,” the supervisors wrote. “Recently, we, the board of supervisors, simply felt that it was time for a change of direction. Our focus moving forward will be to hire a manager who has extensive experience with managing multiple departments, employees, and in the development of a co-department that encompasses fire safety, code enforcement and all related inspections.”
Scott-Harper said a separation agreement with Brown prevents anyone who signed the agreement from providing any further public comment, or specifics related to Brown's dismissal.
Brown's position is being filled by Terry Woodman on an interim basis. From January 1986 to January 2001, she served as assistant manager and zoning officer for Tredyffrin Township, and then served as manager for the East Whiteland Township from January 2001 to April 2015.
Later in the meeting, the board named Woodman to serve as the township's right-to-know officer and its zoning officer.
Connors gave an update regarding the two water monitors that the township has placed in nearby waterways, in order to monitor the conditions of township streams. Two recent water samples were taken, and analysis of these tests are expected to be shared with the township in two weeks. At that point, Connors said, there should be enough data monitoring to take the information to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 
Having healthy waterways in London Grove Township, he said, is just a small part of a region-wide  initiative to keep southern Chester County environmentally sound. In an effort to enlist the township in this effort, Connors suggested partnering with New Garden and Kennett Townships, as well as Oxford Borough, in a regional town hall forum that addresses not only water safety, but other issues of concern for local residents, such as phorid fly infestation and hydrogen sulfide odors.  Connors said that he has been in discussion with representatives from these townships.
“At some point, we promised that if the DEP did not take action, that we would have a town hall meeting,” Connors said. “My preference is to give the DEP the opportunity to step up and do something, if there is evidence that shows that there's an issue affecting our area. It's not just the water. It's everything.
“I don't want to just stay singularly focused on the water issue, because it's so much bigger than that.”
After a brief presentation by Bob Norris and Dennis Melton of the Route 1 Economic Initiative, the board gave its verbal support toward the construction of an economic model the Initiative is creating, that will give a township or municipality a reference tool of information, to promote their area to prospective business owners considering the idea of moving there.
The purpose of the Initiative is to promote smart growth along the Route 1 corridor between Kennett Square and Nottingham, that features a balance of open space and economic opportunities.  Norris said that the funding needed to develop the model would cost about $50,000, which will be developed at West Chester University. He said that several townships have already thrown their support toward the construction model, including New Garden Township, Kennett Township, Kennett Borough, and the Oxford Borough.
The board will send a letter of support to the Route 1 Economic Initiative, indicating their verbal approval of the model.
In additional business, the board approved the township's agreement with the West Grove Fire Company and its ambulance service for 2017, in the amount of $112,418 for fire service, and $47,792 for ambulance service. It also signed the township into an agreement with the Southern Chester County Emergency Medical Services for 2017, for $50,114.
The supervisors voted to reappoint Barbara Kane Thornton as township auditor for 2017, and approved the township's tax levy resolution, which re-sets the township millage at 1.25 mils for 2017.
Long-time township volunteer Connie Alegranti was appointed to the township's municipal authority.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.



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