The next person to don a Manchester Township firefighter's helmet will have to plan for retirement differently than his or her co-workers.

Pensions will no longer be offered to new employees of the township's fire department, which currently employs 22 firefighters.

Under a traditional pension plan, the employer continues to support the employee after retirement and until death.

Instead, new hires will have to save for retirement with a 401(k)-style plan, said Tim James, the township's manager.

Nixing pensions was one compromise reached by the township and the Manchester Township Career Firefighter Association in their nine-month negotiation of a new three-year contract.

"It's been the latest way of establishing some cost savings," James said.

James said he could not estimate how much the township might expect to save.

Specific details of the retirement plans - such as how much the township would contribute to individual accounts - has not been determined, James said.

Raises and staffing: Under the new contract, 22 full-time firefighters will retain their pension and health-insurance benefits. Firefighter salaries will increase 1.75 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent each of the second and third years of the contract, James said.

The township's board of supervisors approved the contract, which expires at the end of 2015, last week.

Anthony Sawyer, president of the township's firefighters' union, said the new contract sacrifices some quality of service. That's because the minimum on-duty staffing level was reduced from six to five firefighters, Sawyer said.

In the past, someone would have been called in to work overtime if fewer than six firefighters reported for work at any one time, Sawyer said. Now, the department will respond with a maximum of two pieces of apparatus - engines, rescue and ladder trucks - if only five firefighters are on duty, Sawyer said.

That's because an engine cannot leave the station with fewer than two firefighters on board.

"It's just an overtime savings for the township," Sawyer said.

James conceded that there may be times the staffing level affects the department's response.

But, he said, "The big thing is mutual aid does come into play. I'm not sure it's going to be a major dropoff in service."

As for ongoing regionalization talks, James said the new contract does not preclude the township from consolidating with area fire departments - such as York Area United Fire and Rescue, a regional fire department chartered by Springettsbury and Spring Garden townships and launched in May 2008.

Manchester Township already pays for administrative services from YAUFR. The township's board of supervisors remains interested in further consolidation, James said.

- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.