Indiana lawmakers are proposing a creative -and lucrative- way to fight first responder manpower shortages: offer tax incentives to volunteer firefighters and reserve police officers.
A critical shortage in volunteer firefighters has led many parts of the state -which rely on unpaid first responders- to worry about whether or not there will be enough people to respond to a call.
“It’s expensive to train somebody,” said Paoli Fire Chief Mark Jones. “Once they get trained, and then they leave, and the cycle starts again.”
The issue was recently brought up in the southern Indiana town of Paoli during a city council meeting.
“The numbers of our volunteers are dwindling down, and the sky is not falling in, yet but it’s getting there,” said Paoli Town Council President Michael Harkness. ““I would hate to ever think that somebody’s life perishes because nobody can show up.”
A new proposal, however, would give volunteer fire crews incentives to stay on with the volunteer departments, and is an attempt to maintain retention.
State Representative Steve Bartels has proposed a 5% tax incentive for small volunteer departments around the state, much in the same way tax incentives are offered for National Guardsmen.
“It’s the same as we do for the National Guard in our state, so extend that to the volunteer fireman and also looking at reserve police officers in the state of Indiana,” Bartels told WDRB.
Reduced staffing potentially means longer response times, putting entire communities at risk.
Legislation could be on the state house floor as early as January.
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