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Wagner Lauds $41 Million Increase for Volunteer Firefighters
Acknowledges dedication, hard work of community firefighters
HARRISBURG, (Oct. 19, 2011) – Due to a one-time increase in premiums taxes collected during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, Pennsylvania’s 2,500 Volunteer Firefighters’ Relief Associations will receive a 57% increase in funds from the Foreign Fire Fund and the Foreign Casualty Fund. VFRAs, the financial arm of volunteer fire departments, receive state aid from a 2-percent state tax on fire insurance purchased by Pennsylvania residents from insurance companies incorporated outside of the commonwealth.
Not all VFRAs will receive the same increase. Each municipality gets a different amount based upon 50% of a municipality’s population (from the census) and 50% of their market value which come from the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB). This is a one-time benefit for the VFRAs, so auditor general encourages these entities to spend the money wisely.
"I commend all volunteer fire departments and first responders for their extraordinary assistance during the Great Flood of 2011. Their immediate positive response to residents of the commonwealth was exceptional and no doubt saved lives and property. The service provided by volunteers across Pennsylvania is second to none and is a great asset to our commonwealth.”
The Bureau of Corporation Taxes within the Department of Revenue says the proliferation in funds is attributable to a stepped-up effort to collect the 2-percent tax, in addition to a rise in the premiums paid and associated tax on the premiums.
Due to the enhanced collection efforts, out-of-state insurance company taxpayers essentially made double payments this year in order to comply with statutory insurance prepayment obligations. This year’s bonus funds can be used for authorized equipment and tools.
The Department of the Auditor General has the responsibility to audit VFRAs to make sure that funds are spent according to state law. VFRAs are non-profit organizations established to afford financial protection to volunteer firefighters who suffer misfortune as a result of their participation in the fire service. VFRAs are distinct separate legal entities from fire companies. The department also conducts workshops to help local firefighters comply with VFRA regulations.
Wagner's strong support for first responders and commitment to public safety issues dates back to his own experience as an emergency medical technician at Citizens Ambulance Service in Indiana, Pennsylvania, working his way through college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
"I understand first-hand and have a deep respect for what volunteers do for our communities across the commonwealth," Wagner said.
The Department of the Auditor General distributed on behalf of the commonwealth more than $71.5 million to almost 2,000 local VFRAs in 2010.
Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the commonwealth’s elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits, and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts thousands of audits each year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department’s website at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.
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