Alabama Municipalities Move to Improve Fire Fighter Pensions

September 15 • 2020

During a time of great uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Professional Fire Fighters of Alabama (PFFA) has successfully worked to increase retirement benefits for members.

Legislation passed last year allows employers to give Tier II employees Tier 1 benefits (the more lucrative of the two). Of the 40 PFFA municipalities eligible to make this change, 25 of these cities have adopted the resolution so far.

“Firefighting is a very rewarding career, but also a physically taxing one. It is not realistic for our members to work the number of years needed to accrue enough benefits to retire under Tier II,” says PFFA President Dave Harer. “The PFFA is pleased that so many municipalities recognize this and are voluntarily giving fire fighters and other employees the retirement benefits they need.”

One of the casualties of the 2008 recession was the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s investments. This resulted in an increase to the overall unfunded liability. In 2012, lawmakers passed a plan to create a Tier II in the retirement system for employees hired after 2013. Under the new tier, fire fighters had to work 36 years to match the benefits they would have received after only 25 years under Tier 1.

After several years of lobbying and a public information campaign by the PFFA, the state legislature passed Act 2019-132 allowing local employers that participate in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) to provide Tier I retirement benefits by adopting a resolution to opt in.