TITLE VI
PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES

Chapter 100-B
NEW HAMPSHIRE LENGTH OF SERVICE AWARDS PROGRAM FOR VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS AND VOLUNTEER EMERGENCY MEDICAL PERSONNEL

Section 100-B:1

    100-B:1 Purpose. – The purpose of the length of service awards program is to provide service awards to volunteer and call firefighters and emergency medical personnel of volunteer municipal groups as organized under RSA 154:1, I(a)-(c). This program shall provide an income after a period of vesting to those that meet the yearly certification criteria and who have made periodic payments into the program's plan. This program includes a deferred compensation plan. Contributions shall be made by the municipality and the individual into the plan. Participation in the plan is voluntary, and must be approved by each local legislative body.

Source. 1996, 211:1. 1998, 371:2, eff. June 26, 1998.

Section 100-B:2

    100-B:2 Definitions. –
In this chapter:
I. "Break in service" means the period in time that is not credited to a member's volunteer service with the department.
II. "Committee" means the length of service awards program committee established in RSA 100-B:9 to administer the program.
III. "Contribution" means:
(a) The amount deferred from the member's compensation.
(b) Any amount contributed by the member in addition to deferrals.
(c) Funds contributed by the sponsor.
IV. "Elected or appointed position" means line officers, department or company officers and the president, vice-president, treasurer and secretary of a fire company or department.
V. "Entitlement age" means the age designated by the sponsor at which a program participant is entitled to begin receiving an unreduced service award. In no event shall the entitlement age under a program be earlier than age 60 nor later than the age at which the participant can receive an unreduced benefit under Title II of the Social Security Act, Public Law 74-271, 42 U.S.C. ยง 401, et seq. No service award program may provide for the payment of benefits, except in the case of death or disability, before age 60.
VI. "Fiduciary" means any person who exercises discretionary authority or control with respect to the administration of the program or the management or disposition of program assets or who renders investment advice for a fee to the program.
VII. "Fire department" means any volunteer fire district, fire protection district, village, town, city, unincorporated town, unorganized place, or other entity responsible for fire protection or any volunteer medical emergency services organization.
VII-a. "Hazardous duty group" means a local government retirement plan for firefighters, including call and volunteer, and emergency medical services personnel qualifying under Internal Revenue Service safe harbor rules for exclusion from coverage under Social Security and Medicare.
VIII. "Member" means a volunteer who is qualified under the terms of RSA 100-B:4. Unless specifically provided otherwise, "member" shall not include a retired member or a member who has become ineligible for any reason.
IX. "Municipality" means town, city, village, unincorporated town, or unorganized place.
X. "Nonforfeitable" means the unconditional and legally enforceable right to receive benefits attributable to service as an active volunteer firefighter, call firefighter, or emergency medical technician under the program that will begin at the entitlement age specified in the program.
XI. "Normal retirement date" means the date on which a member shall have both attained the sixtieth birthday and been credited with at least 20 years of credited service under the plan.
XII. "Participant" means an active volunteer firefighter, call firefighter, or emergency medical technician who is eligible for a benefit under a service awards program. Permanent personnel shall not be considered eligible for a benefit under a service award program.
XIII. "Permanent" means an individual regularly employed on a full-time basis by any fire department.
XIV. "Plan" means the New Hampshire volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel length of service awards program as of its original effective date, including any subsequent amendments.
XV. "Plan year" means each 12-month period ending on December 31 of each year. For years prior to the effective date of the plan, the corresponding 12-month period shall be the plan year.
XVI. "Retired member" means an individual who has been a member but who has commenced receiving contribution repayments under RSA 100-B:6.
XVII. "Service award" means the contribution repayments payable to a participant in a service awards program.
XVIII. "Service awards program" or "program" means a nonqualified deferred compensation plan or other pension plan established or maintained under this chapter to provide service awards for active volunteer firefighters, call firefighters, or emergency medical technicians, pursuant to the benefit options specified by the committee.
XIX. "Sponsor" or "sponsoring organization" means any volunteer fire district, fire protection district, village, town, city, unincorporated town, unorganized place, or other entity responsible for fire protection which has a volunteer fire department or other emergency medical services.
XX. "Trustee" means the bank, trust company, insurance company, individual, or other organization registered to do business in the state of New Hampshire designated by the committee.
XXI. "Trust fund" means all the assets held under the trust agreement.
XXII. "Volunteer" means any member of a volunteer fire department of a municipality, and includes call firefighters and emergency medical personnel, who perform services as a volunteer firefighter or emergency medical services for the benefit of the municipality. Such volunteer must respond to 20 percent of all emergency calls and fires called to, or participate in a minimum of 24 hours per year of training sessions and drills as required to maintain the status of volunteer firefighter.
XXIII. "Year of firefighting service" means a 12-month period during which an active volunteer firefighter, call firefighter, or emergency medical technician participates in the fire service and satisfies the minimum requirements of participation established by the committee.

Source. 1996, 211:1. 1998, 371:3. 2002, 132:1, eff. July 8, 2002.

Section 100-B:3

    100-B:3 Authorization. – Authorization for a sponsor to join and participate in the state length of service awards program, and to establish service awards programs for volunteer or call firefighters, and emergency medical personnel of a municipality shall result from the affirmative vote of 2/3 of the legislative body of the municipality having control over the fire department or emergency medical group. Once this program has been established, it may be discontinued by following the same voting process.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.

Section 100-B:4

    100-B:4 General Requirements. –
I. No fire department, fire district, or municipality shall be required to establish an awards program.
II. An active volunteer or call firefighter, or emergency medical technician shall be eligible to participate in any service awards program provided under this chapter if the active volunteer firefighter, call firefighter, or emergency medical technician has reached the age of 18, has completed at least one year of firefighting service, and has achieved state certified level I firefighter or has attained certification as an emergency medical technician.
III. Each volunteer eligible for membership shall file an application for membership in the plan with the local governing body, which shall certify that the prospective member has fulfilled the requirements of a volunteer. Once a volunteer becomes a member in the plan, the member may not withdraw contributions with the credited interest thereon unless such member terminates volunteer service with the department, subject to the conditions as set forth in RSA 100-B:6 and RSA 100-B:12.
IV. A volunteer's status as a member shall continue after being accepted as a member of the plan except for the following circumstances which constitute a break in service:
(a) If the volunteer is unable to meet the eligibility requirements for any annual period, a volunteer may rejoin the plan as of any future January 1, if the member qualifies as a volunteer.
(b) If the volunteer is granted a leave of absence for any annual period, a volunteer may rejoin the plan as of any future January 1, if the member qualifies as a volunteer.
(c) A volunteer who is terminated for any reason other than death, disability or retirement shall be entitled to a lump sum payment equal to the member's contributions with credited interest thereon to the date of such termination payable within 90 days after such termination with the added provision that the volunteer may elect to maintain contributions in the plan for a period not to exceed the volunteer's credited length of service at termination for purposes of later resuming volunteer service.
(d) If the volunteer qualifies and resumes services, the volunteer may rejoin the plan as of any future January 1. If the volunteer does not resume volunteer service within the period of the credited length of service, the provisions of subparagraph (c) shall apply at the end of the period.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.

Section 100-B:4-a

    100-B:4-a Hazardous Duty Group. –
I. A sponsor may establish a hazardous duty group as an addition to the service awards program in this chapter according to the procedure for adoption provided in RSA 100-B:3. Upon adoption of a hazardous duty group by a sponsor, the sponsor shall allocate 7.5 percent of base pay compensation of a participant for services performed for contribution to the trust fund under RSA 100-B:8.
II. The committee shall establish in rules adopted pursuant to RSA 541-A the following:
(a) The procedures and requirements for participation in the deferred compensation plan by members of a hazardous duty group.
(b) The definition and determination of compensation or base pay of a hazardous duty group participant.
(c) The administration and qualification of the provision of this section as a safe harbor retirement benefit plan in compliance with Internal Revenue Code requirements, and applicable Internal Revenue Service rules and orders.

Source. 2002, 132:2, eff. July 8, 2002.

Section 100-B:5

    100-B:5 Benefit Dates. –
I. The benefit date of members in the plan shall be the later of:
(a) Attainment of age 60.
(b) Completion of at least 20 years of credited service.
II. A member who is satisfactorily able to perform the member's duties may remain in active volunteer service after the member's benefit date. The first day of the calendar month following such actual retirement shall be the member's deferred benefit date.
III. A member who qualifies for benefits under paragraph I may begin to receive benefits at the member's benefit date even though the member continues volunteer service. No additional credit shall be earned beyond the 20 years required for benefit eligibility.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.

Section 100-B:6

    100-B:6 Distribution of Accumulated Contributions. –
I. There shall be a distribution of the accumulated contributions of the member or sponsor upon the first to occur of the following:
(a) Termination of volunteer service;
(b) Attainment of age 60 by the member; or
(c) Death of the member.
II. The distribution shall occur as a lump sum or as a single premium annuity, payable to the member, or to the named beneficiary or beneficiaries of the member, in the case of distribution after the member's death.
III. No distributions paid under the plan shall commence prior to January 1, 2001.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.

Section 100-B:7

    100-B:7 Vesting; Points to Remain in Plan. –
I. A member shall have a nonforfeitable right to a percentage of a service award that is not less than the percentage determined under the following table:
Years of Service Nonforfeitable Percentage
6 years 20
7 years 40
8 years 60
9 years 80
10 years or More 100
 

II. Notwithstanding the preceding table, a member shall have a 100 percent nonforfeitable right to the member's service award upon the member's attainment of the entitlement age under the plan, including any increase in benefits provided for in an amendment of a service awards program.
III. Firefighting service shall be credited under a service awards program for each calendar year after establishment of the program in which an active member participates. In order to remain a member, a member shall accrue at least 24 points each calendar year. Points shall be granted as follows:
(a) Attendance at a minimum number of meetings shall be mandatory. Members shall be awarded one point for each meeting they attend in the program. A minimum of 8 points and a maximum of 12 points shall be earned from attending meetings.
(b) Members shall complete a minimum of 24 training hours in order to obtain a minimum of 12 points, and a maximum of 60 training hours each year in order to obtain a maximum of 30 points. Each sponsor shall determine the training and course content of the service awards program.
(c) A member whose volunteer fire service is interrupted by full-time extended obligatory military service or by a single voluntary enlistment not to exceed 4 years in the armed forces of the United States shall be considered on military leave. During such period of military leave, the member shall receive active volunteer service credit of 24 points for each full year, prorated for service of less than a year.
(d) A member's service awards program may provide for the crediting of years of active firefighting service for periods prior to the establishment of such program to a maximum of 5 years of active firefighting service per participant, one year for each 3 years prior to the establishment, but only to the extent authorized by the sponsor. Full credit shall be allowed for all years of active firefighting service in a sponsoring organization other than the one in which the member is currently a member.
(e) In order to provide credit for service prior to the establishment of the service awards program, each sponsor shall review its prior membership rosters to determine the number of years credit for each participant who is entitled to credit. In making the analysis, the sponsor shall adopt and use standards for active service. Approval for such prior service shall require certification by the president, secretary, and chief of the fire company.
(f) In computing credit for those active members who also serve as paid employees within a political subdivision of the state, credit shall not be given for activities performed during the individual's regularly assigned work periods.
(g) An active member whose name does not appear on the approved certified list or who is denied credit for service prior to the establishment of the service awards program shall have the right to appeal within 30 days of posting of the list or within 30 days of denial of past service credit. The appeal shall be in writing and mailed to the trustees. The decision of the trustees shall be subject to appropriate judicial review.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.

Section 100-B:8

    100-B:8 Trust Fund. –
I. All contributions under this chapter made by the sponsor and the members shall be held and administered by the trustee in trust for use in accordance with the plan. The responsibility for the holding and investment of the fund shall lie with the trustee. The committee shall set an investment policy to guide the trustee in the selection of the investments.
II. The trustee shall hold contributions made under this chapter by the sponsor and contributions made by members upon their being forwarded to the trustee by the sponsor's treasurer in accordance with the terms of a written agreement and the trustee. The trustee shall have all rights, privileges, duties, and immunities conferred upon it by the trust agreement.
III. No part of the corpus or income of the fund shall be used for, directed to, or diverted to, any purpose, subject to the payment of expenses, other than for the exclusive benefit of the members and their beneficiaries prior to the satisfaction of all liabilities under the plan; and provided further that no person shall have any interest in or right to any part of earnings or principal of the fund, or any rights to any part of earnings or principal of the fund, or any rights in, to, or under the trust agreement, except as and to the extent expressly provided in the plan and in the trust agreement.
IV. Expenses of administration of the plan may be paid out of the trust fund upon direction by the committee.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.

Section 100-B:9

    100-B:9 Administration of the Plan. –
I. A length of service awards program committee is established to administer this program. The committee shall consist of 7 members as follows:
(a) Two public members, one of whom shall be appointed by the president of the senate and one of whom shall be appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.
(b) One member appointed by the New Hampshire Municipal Association.
(c) One member appointed by the fire standards and training commission, who shall be a volunteer firefighter and who shall not be a member of the fire standards and training commission.
(d) One member appointed by the New Hampshire Association of Fire Chiefs, who shall be a chief of a volunteer fire department.
(e) Two members appointed by the New Hampshire State Firemen's Association, who shall be volunteer firefighters.
II. All appointments shall be made within 90 days of the enactment of this chapter.
III. No committee member shall serve more than 2 consecutive 3-year terms.
IV. The general administration of the plan and the responsibility for carrying out the provisions of the plan shall be placed in the committee. Members of the committee shall serve without compensation.
V. The chairperson of the committee shall be determined by a vote of the committee at its first meeting. No chairperson shall serve more than 2 consecutive one-year terms.
VI. The committee may correct any defect or supply any omission or reconcile any inconsistency in the plan in such manner and to such extent as it shall deem necessary to carry the plan into effect.
VII. The committee shall meet at least annually and at such other times, by the call of the chairperson, or at the request of any 2 members of the committee.
VIII. The committee shall adopt rules, under RSA 541-A, relative to the administration of the plan.
IX. The committee may retain employees, agents, or actuarial advisors to assist in its duties.
X. The committee shall establish what constitutes a quorum and a majority. The committee shall set an investment policy and policies with regard to the administration of the plan. Annually, the committee shall make a report to each sponsor participating in the plan.
XI. The committee shall make a semi-annual report on the implementation and status of the length of service awards program to the president of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the chairpersons of the house and senate executive departments and administration committees.

Source. 1996, 211:1. 1998, 371:4, eff. June 26, 1998.

Section 100-B:10

    100-B:10 Defined Contribution Plan. –
I. All plan assets shall be held in trust for the exclusive purpose of providing contribution repayments to members and their beneficiaries or for the purpose of defraying the reasonable expenses of the operation and administration of the plan. If the service awards program and the related trust fund are not tax qualified within the meaning of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, the trust fund referred to in this paragraph may provide that the assets held under the fund may be subject to the claims of general creditors, if any, of the sponsor or may contain such other terms and provisions as are necessary to insure that the participation by an active member in the service awards program does not result in taxable income to such volunteer firefighter under any provision of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. The contribution requirements for a service awards program that is a nonqualified deferred compensation plan or other pension plan shall be the amount actuarially determined. The contributions shall be made by the sponsors and the members on an annual basis. The sponsor shall contribute a minimum of $300 for each member in the plan. Each member in the plan shall contribute a minimum of $60. The maximum number of years for which a participating active member may make a contribution shall be 40 years.
II. The contribution repayment payable to a participating active member entitled to a contribution repayment under the program shall be the resulting amount from a defined annual contribution made by the sponsor. The administrative costs shall be met by a .3 percent surcharge on the contribution.
III. A member's retirement income plan shall provide that, in the event of the death of an active member who has a right to a nonforfeitable percentage of retirement income, the designated beneficiaries of such active member, or the estate if no beneficiary is so designated, shall be entitled to receive benefits payable under the service award plan. Such benefits shall be equal to the amount of contributions earned by the member under the plan at the date of death.

Source. 1996, 211:1. 1998, 371:5, eff. June 26, 1998.

Section 100-B:11

    100-B:11 Administration Reporting and Disclosure. –
I. (a) The trustee shall provide each active member who participates in a service awards program maintained under this chapter with a summary of the program's provisions, including the program's provisions relating to the participation requirements and the program's service awards formula for distributing contributions, which shall be as follows:
Retiring After: 
 5-6 years: The member's contributions plus 20 percent of the sponsor's contributions.
 6-7 years: The member's contributions plus 40 percent of the sponsor's contributions.
 7-8 years: The member's contributions plus 60 percent of the sponsor's contributions.
 8-9 years: The member's contributions plus 80 percent of the sponsor's contributions.
 9-10 years: The member's contributions plus 100 percent of the sponsor's contributions.
 over 10 years: 100 percent of all contributions.
 

(b) This summary shall be provided to each service awards program participant within 6 months from the date the program participation commences. In addition, any material modification to such program provisions shall be communicated in writing to each participant within 6 months after the later of the date modification is adopted or the date it is effective. A copy of this program, the summary of the program, and documents related to the funding or investment of the assets of the program and of any contracts or agreements with service providers to the program shall be made available for inspection or copying by a program participant or beneficiary at the sponsor's main office.
II. (a) It shall be the responsibility of the governing body of each municipality to maintain all required records on forms prescribed by the committee.
(b) Each fire department shall furnish to the governing body of the municipality a list of all volunteer members, certified under oath, and shall identify those volunteer members who have qualified for credit under the program for the previous year. Such list shall be submitted annually by February 15.
(c) The governing body of each municipality shall review the list of each fire department and approve the final annual certification. The approved list of certified members shall then be returned to the fire department and posted for at least 30 days for review by members.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.

Section 100-B:12

    100-B:12 Amendment and Termination of Plan. –
I. The committee shall have the right to amend the plan at any time provided that no amendment shall:
(a) Cause or permit any portion of the fund to become the property of the sponsor until contribution repayments to members and beneficiaries are satisfied; or
(b) Deprive any member or beneficiary retroactively of rights already accrued under the plan.
II. No amendment improving the contribution repayment amounts provided by a plan shall be made before January 1, 2001.
III. The local legislative body of the municipality shall have the right by action to terminate the plan at any time, subject to the following:
(a) If the plan is terminated in its entirety, or if the sponsor's contributions are discontinued, and not merely suspended, the fund shall be used subject to the payment of expenses, for the benefit of members and beneficiaries and for no other purpose until all contribution repayments to members and beneficiaries for contributions payable under the plan to the date of termination or discontinuance of contributions have been satisfied.
(b) If the fund is insufficient to satisfy all contribution repayments in full, then the assets of the fund shall be applied in the following order:
(1) To provide to each member an amount equal to the member's contributions, with credited interest thereon, to the earliest of the member's contribution repayment date, or the date of termination, reduced by the amount of any payments made to such member, which amount shall reduce the amounts necessary to provide contribution repayments set forth in subparagraphs (2)-(4).
(2) Class 1: Retired members and other members who have attained their benefit dates.
(3) Class 2: Members who have terminated volunteer service with the sponsor, or could have terminated such service, with a right to termination benefits for themselves or their beneficiaries under RSA 100-B:4.
(4) Class 3: All remaining members.
(c) Each of the foregoing classes, with the exception of Class 1, shall be determined as of the date of termination of the plan.
IV. (a) If upon the application of the assets of the fund in the order of priority to provide payment in part of liabilities to members and beneficiaries in one of the 3 classes, there are assets available for that class but not sufficient to satisfy such liabilities in full, the assets available for that class shall be applied on the basis of the proportions which the available assets bear to the current values of the accrued benefits of all members and beneficiaries in that class.
(b) Upon the termination of the plan, the fund shall continue in existence and the assets shall be applied to the benefit of the several classes, or the fund may be distributed to each member or beneficiary of the current value of what such member or beneficiary is entitled to receive. These payments shall be made in installments over a period of 3 years.
V. After the fulfillment of all obligations to members and their beneficiaries provided for in this section, any portion of the fund remaining shall be returned to the governing body of the municipality.

Source. 1996, 211:1. 1998, 371:6, eff. June 26, 1998.

Section 100-B:13

    100-B:13 Miscellaneous. –
I. If any person to whom a contribution is repayable from the fund is a minor, or any person to whom such benefit is payable is incompetent by reason of physical or mental disability, any payment due, unless a proper claim shall have been made by a duly appointed guardian, conservator or legal representative, may be made to the member's spouse, child, parent, or brother or sister, or to any person deemed by the committee to have incurred expenses for such person otherwise entitled to payment. Any such payment shall be a complete discharge of any liability for such payment under the plan.
II. Members and beneficiaries shall be entitled to all the contribution repayments specifically set out under the terms of the plan, but to the extent permitted by law, the contribution repayments or any of the property rights in the benefits shall not be assignable or distributable to any creditor or other claimant of such member or beneficiary. No member or beneficiary shall have the right to anticipate, assign, pledge, accelerate, or in any way dispose of any of the moneys or benefits or other property which may be payable to them.
III. All contribution repayments under the plan shall be paid or provided for solely from the fund, and a sponsor assumes no liabilities or responsibilities for benefits.
IV. Neither the action of a sponsor in the establishment of this plan or any action taken by it or by the committee shall be construed as giving any member the right to be retained in such status or any other right whatsoever except to the extent of the contribution repayments provided by the plan to be paid or made available from the fund.
V. If any provisions of this chapter or the application thereof is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of the chapter which can be given effect without the invalid provisions or application, and to this end the provisions of this chapter are severable.
VI. Whenever reasonable efforts fail to locate any member or beneficiary entitled to contribution repayments under the plan within 7 years from the time notice is first received that the member or beneficiary is not to be found at the address in the records of the sponsor, or the trustee, the committee may direct that any contribution repayments to which such person may be entitled shall thereupon be cancelled and no payment shall be made thereafter to anyone with respect to the benefits so cancelled.
VII. Forfeitures arising from death, termination of service, or otherwise under the plan shall not be applied to increase the contribution repayments any member would otherwise receive under the plan prior to the plan's termination but shall be used as soon as possible to enhance the principal assets of the plan.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.

Section 100-B:14

    100-B:14 Eligibility Exemption. –
I. All volunteer and call firefighters who have completed 5 or more years of service as volunteer or call firefighters shall be eligible for participation in the deferred compensation plan on January 1, 1997, even if they are not level one certified.
II. All volunteer and call firefighters who have completed less than 5 years of service as volunteer or call firefighters and who are not level one certified shall be eligible for participation in the deferred compensation plan from the start of their volunteer service, provided that they obtain level one certification within 2 years.
III. All volunteer and call firefighters who have completed less than 5 years of service as volunteer or call firefighters and who are not level one certified shall receive credit for 2 years of volunteer service eligibility in the deferred compensation plan if they take longer than 2 years to obtain level one certification.
IV. All other volunteer and call firefighters shall meet the criteria set forth in RSA 100-B:4, II.

Source. 1996, 211:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1997.