Newtown Township to Incentivize Volunteer Firefighter Participation With Nominal 2023 Tax Increase

Local municipalities are required by Pennsylvania law to provide reliable emergency services to the community.
Photo via Newtown Fire and Emergency Services Facebook page.

Call 911! That’s the automatic response when people see smoke, fire, an explosion, or other similar emergencies.

But what if you call and no one is available to help?

Newtown Township Supervisor Elen Snyder wants to make sure that never happens.

“For years funding for emergency services has been neglected in our township,” Snyder said.

A tax increase of 1.625 mills – approximately $75 per household/per year – was approved by the supervisors at their December 7 meeting.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Pennsylvania has 1,802 fire departments registered with the National Fire Department Registry of which a majority are staffed by volunteers.

Unfortunately, and for the last several decades, the number of volunteers has been steadily declining leaving many municipalities scrambling to provide round-the-clock services.

“This is not unique to Newtown Township … it’s happening all over the country,” Snyder said.

The approved tax increase will afford the township the financial resources to attract much needed volunteer and paid staff.

“Make no mistake about it … we must find a way to hire more paid firefighters or we cannot promise an engine at your home or place of business with the dwindling amount of volunteers we presently have,” said Snyder.

In addition to staffing, ongoing funding is also required for training, equipment and the maintenance of firefighting and emergency service gear.

Republican Supervisor Kyle Davis doesn’t agree with the slight tax hike.

“I don’t think we should be raising taxes other than for the ambulance squad this year,” said Davis, who floated the idea to use unspent federal subsidies (as reported by the Bucks County Herald).

Subsidies, however, would only provide temporary relief and not provide the ongoing financial support needed to deliver reliable emergency and fire services year after year.

Even with the nominal increase, the township will continue to have a lower tax rate than neighboring municipalities.

Locally elected officials, such as township supervisors, are charged with the responsibility of providing adequate fire and emergency services by state law.

Snyder also pointed out that satisfactory fire and emergency services have a beneficial effect on property values and insurance rates. 

Documents pertaining to the 2023 Newtown Township budget may be viewed here.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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