“It is routine now for firefighters to be up over $200,000, $300,000,” said Mark Bucher, chief executive officer of the California Policy Center, a public policy think tank. “Look at just about any city and you’ll see the same thing.”
Take, for example, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, which covers a portion of southern Contra Costa County.
More than half of the district’s roughly 150 full-time workers — among them battalion chiefs, captains and firefighter paramedics — earned more than $300,000 in total compensation in 2015, according to data collected by Transparent California, a nonprofit watchdog.
The county’s median household income is roughly $80,000.
One reason for the high compensation: It can be cheaper for jurisdictions to pay big overtime — at 1.5 times or double regular pay — than it would be to add staff because of the pension liabilities attached to each new hire.
For San Ramon firefighters, every dollar of salary means roughly one more dollar in pension contributions, said Paige Meyer, the fire chief. “When I’m paying over $2 for a full-time employee and I can pay a dollar and a half for overtime,” he said, “I’ve got a substantial savings.”
I’ll say this: I’d much rather see a guy or gal running into burning buildings make a six-figure income than some asshole at Goldman Sachs gambling with other peoples’ money.
The article does point out some pension programs are or will eventually be untenable for many cities.