HARRISBURG – The Senate Finance Committee has approved a bill that would allow volunteer fire companies to keep more of the money they generate during fundraisers, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Scott Martin (R-13).
Senate Bill 952 would exempt volunteer fire companies from paying sales tax on food and beverages sold during fundraising events, such as chicken barbeques and pancake breakfasts.
Under current law, volunteer fire companies pay the six-percent sales tax on all sales during these events. Exempting these events from the sales tax would mirror the approach the state takes toward similar fundraising efforts, such as school sports booster clubs.
Martin said the legislation is a priority because the cost of firefighting equipment and training continues to rise, while the number of volunteers continues to decline.
On average, the cost of equipment increases by 4.5 percent every year. A cancer preemption law passed in 2011 also placed additional financial burdens on fire companies.
“Volunteer fire companies face significant challenges not only in responding to emergencies, but also in finding enough money to afford necessary equipment and training,” Martin said.
“Exempting volunteer fire company fundraisers from paying the sales tax would provide more time and money for these organizations to focus on what really matters – protecting our communities.”
Martin noted that one volunteer fire company in his district in southern Lancaster County needs to replace a 27-year-old tanker next year at a cost of up to $800,000.
The fire company estimates that $15,000-$18,000 of what they raise to pay for the new tanker will have to be remitted back to the state.
The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.