Bucks County Herald

New Hope discusses compensation for volunteers

STUART LEE FRIEDMAN

The New Hope Borough Council discussed ways to implement a relatively new state program to compensate community volunteers at a meeting on April 2.

The program, known as Act 172, was designed to reward fire company emergency service volunteers with either an earned income or real estate tax credit. Participation in the program by municipalities is not mandatory.

Borough Councilman Dan Dougherty said that 14 of the 25 volunteers at the New Hope Eagle Fire Company are borough residents. He stated that an ordinance would be required for the program. While only a few municipalities have implemented the program since its inception on Jan. 20, 2017, he speculated that it could work well in a tight-knit community like New Hope for volunteers who live and earn in the borough.

However, Dougherty said that “when you peel back the onion,” the variables that could exist in earned income or property among those eligible would create wide disparities in actual remuneration.

“You’ll have some people who might get literally $10 or $15 back,” Dougherty explained, adding that “there would be others who might get a thousand.” Dougherty explained that variable tax assessments and joint household incomes could further complicate the formula.

“There would be almost 15 different ways it would have to be calculated to get what could be a very small number,” Dougherty said, questioning the “inordinate amount” of administrative effort for a potentially questionable yield.

Dougherty recommended instead for the borough to grant a credit-based monetary reward system, but acknowledged that another problem would be deciding which volunteer disciplines were worthy of such recognition

Dougherty described the New Hope Fire Company as an “amazing asset to the borough.”

In other borough business, council President Alison Kingsley led a discussion over employee handbook discrepancies on vacation pay covering various departments. She explained that some calculations were based upon anniversary date while others were referenced to Jan. 1 of each year. The board agreed that the matter would be further discussed for a May general meeting vote.

The budget for public trash cans will figure into replacements allowing for more durable, aesthetic and practical receptacles. The discussion of practicality was focused on creating waterproof designs and minimizing spill-over

Cigarette butt disposal was also discussed. Kingsley suggested attaching cylinders outside buildings where people tend to congregate. She maintained that by attaching them to the structures, they would be less obtrusive. A possible bulk discount for the ashtrays could be extended to participating businesses.

Plans to install additional community benches were also a subject of conversation. Steel powder-coated benches with minimal maintenance and bolted attachments would match the existing ambience and were generally favored, but Councilman Peter Meyer’s suggestion to incorporate designs by local artists was well-received at the council workshop meeting.

The standard benches discussed would be assembled on delivery at a prenegotiated cost of $1,050. New Hope plans to install 12 benches within the borough budget and will consider having local artists design up to half of them.

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