Oxford council votes to expand pension benefits for city employees

OXFORD — The Oxford City Council voted Tuesday to expand retirement benefits to all city employees. The move provides tier I retirement benefits to current tier II city employees.

Tier I members, according to Council President Chris Spurlin, can retire after 25 years of service. However, under the tier II plan, a member cannot retire or collect benefits until the employee has reached the age of 62 and acquired at least 10 years of experience.

A state law passed in 2019 allows local governments to pass a resolution granting tier I benefits to tier II employees. As of January 2020, the city of Oxford has 146 tier I employees and 125 tier II employees.

“It helps with recruitment,” said fire Chief Gary Sparks. “That’s the biggest thing we’ve seen.”

Sparks explained that the move places all city employees on the tier I plan.

Aimee Birchfield, Oxford’s finance director, explained that tier II and tier I plan members will contribute 7.5 percent of their pay to the retirement system, and firefighters and law enforcement officers will contribute 8.5 percent, an increase of 1.5 percent for both. 

The Alabama Retired State Employees’ Association said in a letter to the city that the estimated cost for the city will be approximately $97,680 annually, but the city will net $162,461 in savings in year one.

The city has not yet increased the member contribution rates for current tier I employees, but it has submitted a plan for doing so to the Employees’ Retirement System, according to the resolution.

In other business, the council:

— Passed an ordinance selling certain surplus property owned by the city for $14,000.

— Set a public hearing for July 14 to consider a zoning request from Ellen Ireland to rezone property located at 1724 Lakeshore Street from residential district to general business district.

— Heard from Kemp & Associates that reported a clean audit to the city.

— Discussed the construction of a “Welcome to Oxford” sign beside the fire station on Bynum Cutoff Road, which will begin June 29.