Commission improves employee benefits

A vote to improve the retirement benefits for Dale County employees will impact about half the current staff.

The Dale County Commission voted at the Feb. 25 meeting to provide Tier I benefits to employees hired after January 2013.

Employees hired after January 2013 are designated as Tier II employees and would receive less benefits under the state retirement system, explained Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship.

“Anybody hired after January 2013 is a Tier II employee which means that their benefits in the retirement system were greatly reduced over what Tier I employees would receive,” Blankenship said. “One example is that a person at Tier I could retire after 25 years with the county, a Tier II employee has to wait until he is 62 years old.

“When you look at the numbers on the actual difference in benefits between Tier I and Tier II, there is about a 20 percent difference,” he added.

Blankenship said that counties and municipalities have a window of opportunity to obtain the increased benefits for their employees and recommended that the county approve a resolution giving Tier I retirement benefits to those hired after January 2013.

In 2011, the Alabama Retirement System offered county and municipal governments the opportunity to shift 2.5 percent of the retirement contribution to employees. Dale County did not opt to do so at that time.

Legislation in 2019 opened the window of opportunity for municipalities who did not adopt the act in 2011.

Blankenship said that it would cost the county about $33,000 for 15 years to give the increased employee benefit that will affect about 63—about half—current employees. After the 15th year, the cost to the county will decrease to $18,911 annually.

“Cities and counties have an opportunity to do this,” Blankenship said. “If we do this and if some neighboring city or county does not do this, it puts us at a big hiring and retention advantage, all the way around a really good thing for us.”

In unrelated business, Blankenship said that there is a new Dale County Courthouse phone number— (334) 774-6262 that will give callers access to any office in the courthouse.

In other business, Dale County Commissioner Frankie Wilson said that he has received citizen complaints about the amount of time that the railroad crossing on County Road 118 and the feed mill was blocked by a parked train. “This morning a person complained that the train had the road blocked from 2:45 to 5:30 p.m. on Friday afternoons.

“It happens every week,” Wilson said. “The problem is you have school buses trying to get through there and 18-wheelers needing to turn around at the blocked road.

“That’s a long period of time for a road to be shut down,” Wilson said.

“That’s a long way to go around,” Dale County Commissioner Steve McKinnon added.

The commission also voted to participate in the Alabama State Games that will be returning to the Wiregrass for the next two years. The cost to participate is $10,000 per year for two years.

The next meeting of the Dale County Commission is March 24 in the Dale County Government Building in Ozark. A work session begins at 10 a.m. and is followed immediately by a voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.

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