HARRISBURG (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is calling on lawmakers to change funding laws for volunteer fire departments.
“I’m urging the general Assembly to update the… funding to distribute state aid,” DePasqaule said at a news conference Thursday.
“And perhaps even more importantly give relief associations greater flexibility to meet local needs while making sure that each dollar can be used to help firefighters save lives and protect their communities.”
DePasquale says at least 59 relief associations have over a million dollars in reserve funds, often because state regulations limit how the money can be spent.
Current law does not allow funds to be used for paid department employees, only volunteers. But Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline says those are dwindling.
“300 and some thousand in the 1970s, to just over 35,000 by estimate in 2019,” Enterline said while standing alongside DePasquale.
“And what I can tell you is the job of a firefighter has not gotten any easier and our workload has not gotten any lighter.”
Both men stressed the fact that regardless of their relief associations’ reserve funds, volunteer fire departments still need public support and continue to save taxpayers “billions.”
The associations receive money from tax collected in fire insurance premiums from out-of-state providers.