Farmington City Council adopted a pension increase for Farmington Fire Relief Association that members believe they may help with retention of firefighters.
Jeffrey Allbee, president of Farmington Firefighters Relief Association, shared a report on the annual pension contribution at the Dec. 11 council work session. The council approved the measure Dec. 18.
As an assistant fire chief, Allbee said the pension contributions are awarded for years of service. The approved annual benefit increase went from $5,500 to $6,500 effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Stating how the pension is critically important to maintaining the stability and retaining senior firefighters, Allbee said the contribution will likely lead to a new generation of firefighters.
Farmington City Administrator David McKnight said there is no impact on the annual $150,000 contribution the city contributes to the FFRA and said the amount is included in the 2018 city budget.
During the past four years, the city has contributed $150,000 per year to the association. The relief account is currently funded at 142 percent, and the pension increase will reduce the fund to 126 percent, Allbee said.
"The goal of the association is to be at or above 115 percent," Allbee said. He reviewed the history of the relief association, the financial organization's history and how the fund balance has changed over time.
Each council member supported the annual pension contribution increase.
"The pension offered through fire relief is critically important to maintain the stability of having senior firefighters, and to contribute to the growth of a new generation of firefighters who can provide 20 years or more of service to the city of Farmington," Allbee said.
"The pension represents a career of service and is a symbol of thanks for the hard work and selfless dedication that members give to the community," he added. "We are immensely proud of our 143 years of consistent service to the community using generations of volunteer and paid on call personnel."
In comparison to a career firefighter, paid on-call firefighters earn a substantially small hourly pay rate and retirement benefits yet provide services of a career firefighter with the same level of training and certification requirement, he noted. A Farmington firefighter begins his or her career by donating hundreds of hours to attend the training academy for no pay.
The pension now is set to reach $7,000 Jan. 1, 2019, and $7,500 by Jan. 1, 2020.
"The Farmington Firefighters Association believes the request to increase the annual pension benefit is reasonable and necessary to stay competitive with similarly situated metro area lump sum relief association benefits," Allbee said.
Farmington's pension is far below the neighboring communities, Allbee said. "This will put us at a major disadvantage for recruiting and keeping our current firefighters."
The association wants a $10,000 increase by 2019. The surrounding fire relief associations are aiming for $10,000 by 2019, Allbee said.
Pension goals rely on two income sources to remain steady, he said. The first source is the stock market and the second is the city's contribution of $150,000.
"This commitment by the city has not gone unnoticed by the firefighters, and knowing that the city is doing what it can to support the firefighters has increased morale and dedication to the firefighters to make this a great fire department and city to work for," Allbee said.