Sunday, March 18, 2012

Six figure firefighters and the Valley Economy

One of the biggest surprises to me moving to California was learning about the compensation of firefighters. 

Every firefighter I know is a great person and dedicated public servent, before and after I moved to California.  Everywhere else I have lived, they have been paid about the same as teachers, and fire captains/chiefs were like principals.  In the Valley, they typically earn double teacher salaries and have better pensions.  In many communities, they are the best jobs in town.  While I value public service greatly, compensation has to be rationally tied to the income and tax base in the community. 

It is a significant economic problem in the Valley, because the deplorable state of many public services in the Valley is directly tied to the unnecessarily high cost of providing those services.  I was glad to see the Sacramento Bee making this connection in an article today:

The (Consumnes Community Service) district, like many others, gave firefighters enhanced benefits during better times so they could retire at age 50 and earn, for life, 3 percent of their salary for every year of service.

Since then, firefighter salaries have risen, increasing pension payouts. CSD firefighters earned, on average, $115,000 in 2010, actuary reports show.

A 2 percent pay raise for a 25-year veteran firefighter making that much translates to an extra $1,700 a year in annual pension payments.

Six-figure firefighter salaries and large pensions today are the norm. Sacramento County Metropolitan Fire District firefighters averaged $121,000 in salary during 2010. About 140 of Metro Fire's retirees draw annual pensions exceeding $100,000.

CSD has recently curtailed capital improvements, funneling more of its revenue toward payroll and benefits, including retirement. Several other fire districts across the region have scaled back spending not related to compensation.

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