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Fire departments relieved by health care change

Greece, N.Y. - Under the Affordable Health Care Act, employers with 50 employees or more working 30 hours a week are required to provide health insurance.

We carry about 30 part time staff and about 40 full time staff, said North Greece Assistant Fire Chief Jay France, so between the two theres no question we will be affected and it will be a burden on the taxpayers, were just not sure what thats going to be yet.

But the question of whether or not volunteer firefighters are also included under this mandate has been up in the air.

After months of debate the IRS ruled Friday that fire departments with volunteers do not have to comply with that mandate.

We have about 60 volunteers here, said France, so it would have been a heavy burden on our taxpayers.

North Greece Fire Department responds on average to 3,400 calls, each year.

Cutting fire firefighters for us is just not an option, cutting services for us is really not an option if humanly possible, said France.

For volunteer run stations, like the Hilton Fire Department, having to provide health insurance to all 108 volunteers would have closed their doors, according to Hilton Fire Deputy Chief Steve Carter.

When we looked at the potential fall out of what that could have been - it could have been very devastating to our budget for fiscal year '14, said Gates Fire Chief James Harrington.

If the Gates fire department had to provide health care for their 58 volunteer firefighters it would have cost tax payers $570,000 each year, according to Harrington.

Not having the money set aside to do this previously that would have been a very big concern for the board of fire commissioners, said Jeff West, Chairman of the Board of Gates Fire Commissioners.

Which is why fire districts are relieved their letters, phone calls and lobbying paid off.

When you speak with fire service across the nation with 36,000 plus fire departments, who all have the same concerns, the message was heard loud and clear, said Harrington.

 
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