Nov. 21—The Southmont Borough Council approved a preliminary 2024 year budget of $911,700 with a .25-mill tax increase specifically aiming to help the borough's fire department address a volunteer shortage.
The tax increase, approved unanimously on Monday, follows a proposal from the fire department to provide up to $600 in a tax-free annual reimbursement to volunteer firefighters.
"The Southmont Volunteer Fire Company has approximately 25 sets of gear issued to members. Average age of volunteers in the department is rising, and it is increasingly difficult to attract and retain 14- to 25-year-old members," the fire department said in its proposal to the borough council.
The fire department is also providing an equal amount from its funds to provide the reimbursements. The borough's contribution lowers the burden on the fire department to provide the entire reimbursement.
The tax increase will generate about $5,000 for the borough to contribute to the department's volunteers.
Under the agreement, volunteers who have completed an "essentials of firefighting" course and hold certification will receive a $15 reimbursement per call they respond to. Volunteers who do not complete the training will receive $10 per call.
The Southmont Borough Volunteer Fire Department will notify the borough in writing of the reimbursement sum for the six-month period. Upon receipt of the reimbursement sum, the borough will reimburse the fire department 50% of the total.
Russ O'Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.