(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s emergency services have a work force challenge and a financial challenge, and a new tax may be on the horizon in some places.
A new bill, HB2601, would allow second-class townships to increase its ambulance tax to fund emergency services in their areas. There are almost 1,500 second-class townships in the commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania’s emergency services are in a dire state of crisis,” Jim Rigby, R-Johnstown, wrote in a legislative memo. “Funding is a primary issue for struggling emergency services across the commonwealth, thus it is imperative that new revenue options are afforded to municipalities to pay for their crucial services.”
If HB2601 becomes law, townships could increase their levy from .5 mills to 1.5 mills for emergency services, with the money approved for training personnel and providing for worker compensation. If the tax would be greater than 1.5 mills, the increase would need to be approved by the voters of the township.
A 2018 report from the Legislative Fire and EMS Caucus warned of growing problems for recruiting EMS workers and adequately funding their services. It raised serious warnings about the recruitment challenges of volunteer emergency services.
“We must find a way to balance true need for services, equipment, and funding, with maintenance of the social fabric, which is so important to keeping our public safe and strong,” the report stated. “It is the consensus of the Commission that a public safety crisis is unfolding due to the continuing decline in the ranks of our emergency service volunteers.”