Sugarcreek Borough Council Presented with Tax Relief Plan Idea for Volunteer Firefighters

| February 2, 2017

Rocky Grove fire truck
SUGARCREEK BOROUGH, Pa. (EYT) – Sugarcreek Borough Council was presented with a proposal Wednesday night that would allow the borough to give some type of tax relief to volunteer firefighters.

Reno fire chief Mike Garbacz and Rocky Grove fire chief Jeremy Simcheck presented council with the idea based off a new law (Act 172) that was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Tom Wolf in November that would allow municipalities to give tax breaks to active volunteer firefighters.

“We would ask that you consider helping firefighters with the incentives on property taxes,” Garbacz said. “We realize it’s too late for this to take effect this tax year so maybe for 2018.”

Borough solicitor Brian Spaid concurred with Garbacz that because of the timing needed to pass an ordinance that nothing could be done until 2018.

Spaid told council that after reading the law, council would have a couple of options if it so chose.

“You can give them a discount on their real estate tax up to 20 percent on a personal home that they are living in, not on other property,” Spaid said. “You can also give them a discount on their earned income tax, or you could do both.”

Spaid said if council wanted him involved in the discussions about a possible ordinance, he would need to know the amount and what kind of tax discount council would want to give and there would need to be a way to certify that a person is actually a volunteer firefighter which could include them having to document a certain amount of hours performed in such duty.

“We don’t want someone to say they are a volunteer for one day just to get the tax break,” Spaid said.

Borough council president Bogan Goughler said council would hold off discussing the matter until all five council members were present. Councilman Robert Resinger missed Wednesday’s meeting because he had just gotten out of the hospital Wednesday morning and councilman Larry Baughman missed the meeting because he was stranded out east due to the winter storm that moved through this week.


Council also authorized the budget for both the Reno and Rocky Grove Fire Departments at $25,000 each as set by the borough budget passed in December. The fire departments met with council prior to the meeting to outline what they were going to spend the money on.

According to Garbacz, $19,240 of Reno’s money would go towards debt reduction on the 2009 Engine 2 loan which has approximately a $100,000 balance on it. Another $4,5000 would go towards engineering and design for a truss roof on the fire station and $1,260 would be used to install an air primer on the main fire pump of Engine No. 2.


It was announced by Sugarcreek Village resident Charlie McDaniel and also noted by councilman Howard “Skip” Barger that the three street lights have been installed in Sugarcreek Village.

“I want to thank council,” McDaniel said. “I also want to let council know I wouldn’t mind paying a street light tax. My end of Sugarcreek Drive is really dark.”


Policeman Ryan Ashbaugh again asked council how it has determined that money isn’t in the borough budget to hire another full-time full officer.

“The union has run the numbers and run the numbers and run the numbers,” Ashbaugh said “We’ve presented those numbers to council that there would be just over $19,000 left if Joe (Highfield) is put on full time that added with the approximately $33,000 the department generates would still leave an extra $50,000 after hiring a full-time officer. Can someone spell out why this can’t be done? If you can, this would be a mute issue. But all we hear is that it’s not in the budget. Yet when the mayor (Jeff McKenzie) looks at the budget and we look at the budget we see it there.”

There was no comment from any of the three councilmembers present at the meeting including Goughler, Barger and John McClelland. Although, in a previous asked question by Linda Turner, Goughler again insisted that the money wasn’t in the budget.

“That’s the reason you increased taxes, so we could have another officer,” Turner told council.

“No, we raised taxes one mill so that we could keep the department as is,” Goughler shot back.

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