Coastside firefighters’ pay averaged $155,000 per year in 2007


Posted by on Fri, February 1, 2008

Coastside Fire Protection District
Click for larger version
Coastside Fire Protection District
Click for larger version

Coastside firefighters who worked a full year in 2007 received an average of $155,000 in compensation in 2007, including base pay, overtime, and benefits. Captains received an average of $202,000.

The compensation of the Coastside’s firefighters has been debated for years during the run-up to the votes to consolidate the Coastside districts and contract services to Cal Fire. But the actual figures have not been available to the public until now.

It is still critical that Coastsiders understand the compensation of its firefighters. The CalFire contracts are vulnerable to litigation or a referendum election. Also, the IAFF Local 2400 Officials have threatened recall of current Coastside Fire Protection District board members.

Recently, California Supreme Court determined that the the public has a right to salary information by name for public service employees. I submitted a public information request to the CFPD board and received a list of salaries without names for Calendar years 2006 and 2007.

Notes on the charts

In order to make the compensation numbers comparable, they do not include firefighters who worked less than a full year.

Administrative personnel and a mechanic have been removed from the data so that the only individually identifiable personnel are senior management.

There is no way to tell from the analysis how much of the overtime worked by Coastside firefighters was voluntary.

Benefits are fixed at 53% of base pay. Firefighters can retire at 55 with up to 90% of final salary with lifetime medical. Benefits should be considered as part of compensation for two reasons: (1) workers in the private receive retirement benefits in the form of a 401K plan that is deducted from their gross salary, and (2) many private sector workers, as well as the self-employed, pay all or part of their insurance.

You can download a tab-delimited text file of the original data suitable for importing into Excel or other analytical software from Coastsider.


“...Firefighters can retire at 55 with up to 90% of final salary with lifetime medical…”

Sounds like a pretty good deal. How long do they need to work to qualify for these generous entitlements?

Kevin,

To receive 90% of final year salary would require thirty years of service.  Here is a link I found explaining the CalPERS Public Safety retirement benefits:
http://www.calstate.edu/benefits/pdf/CalPERS_Pub7-booklet.pdf

3% at 55 is the one CFPD offers.  Lifetime Medical Plan qualification used to be after one day of service at HMBFPD.    I heard there is a longer period of service required under the latest contract.

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Comment 3
Sat, February 2, 2008 12:24pm
Carl May
All my comments

In what fantasy world was there a “run-up to the votes to consolidate the Coastside districts.” We had no vote. Or do you mean the votes by the district boards—boards of the time that were shown to be unrepresentative of the voters in the last election? This denial of local control was one of the biggest losses of self-determination our Montara and Moss Beach communities have suffered in a long time.

Carl May

Vince williams wrote:
“The compensation of the Coastside’s firefighters has been debated for years during the run-up to the votes to consolidate the Coastside districts and contract services to Cal Fire.”

Wow - - it looks like our firefighters are actually making a salary that allows them the opportunity to live in the community they serve.  What a concept.

Comment 5
Mon, February 4, 2008 1:04pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

Looks like they’re making at least twice as much as the typical Coastside resident—the people who pay their salaries. I haven’t been able to get a Coastside number from the Census Bureau, but the numbers for Half Moon Bay are interesting.

Wikipedia: “The median income for a household in the city was $78,473, and the median income for a family was $92,204. Males had a median income of $60,913 versus $41,265 for females.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_Moon_Bay,_California

Since our firefighters are “making a salary that allows them the opportunity to live in the community they serve”, why do approximately half of them live elsewhere, some as far away as Utah?  And from looking at the numbers, they’re clearly making more far more than the average of those who live here.

It just hit me why some government agencies subsidize local housing for their employees instead of paying them more so that they can afford local non-subsidized housing.

What a wonderful world it will be when we pay our school teachers as much as our firefighters.

Mr. Williams, thank you for not only taping the CFPD board meetings, but for staying engaged with the district.  You do the community a great service.

However, Gentlemen Posters, from your interpretation of the data, it is clear to me that you have a bias against firefighter/paramedics.

First of all, by downloading the data, I find your calculation that the ten Coastside firefighters/paramedics who worked a full year in 2007 received an average of $155,000 in compensation in 2007, including base pay, overtime, and benefits is accurate.

However, to take a different look at things, the same ten FF/PM received an average base pay of $83,000 (without benefits and overtime) and average overtime pay of $31,300, which was mostly forced overtime, in 2007. 


Secondly,  Wikipedia uses 2000 census data, and it is not stated whether that median includes benefits. Wikipedia also gives Moss Beach median income of $91,992 (median family income of $99,307) for 2000.  A different source, City-data.com estimates the median household income for Half Moon Bay in 2005 is $82,600 (based on $78,473 in 2000).  Furthermore, the HMB Realtors show the median HMB at $96,802.  It is not stated if these medians include benefits.

I think that it is very unfair and biased to use 2007 FF/PM wages with overtime and benefits and compare it to 2000 median HMB income which may or may not include benefits.

Full disclosure:  My husband Clayton Jolley is Division Chief with the CFPD.

Comment 9
Mon, February 4, 2008 11:00pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

It’s challenging to make the numbers comparable, because different people are compensated in different ways.

It’s important to compare individual incomes, and not family incomes, from the census data.  The firefighters are compensated as individuals. The numbers you’re citing are for households and include the income from all working members in the household.

Also, keep in mind that lots of folks in high tech work plenty of “overtime” (more than 40 hours a week) and don’t get any extra pay. And, as it says in the analysis, they don’t get any retirement package. They have 401K money (and often medical premiums) deducted from their gross income. Very few of them will save enough to retire at anywhere near their pre-retirement incomes.

I’m convinced that some firefighters worked more overtime than they wanted to during the staffing crisis of the last couple of years. But they were well compensated for this.

I only brought up the disparity in pay in response to Susan’s comment. But I do think it’s important to recognize that most of our neighbors live on the Coastside despite compensation packages that are much less generous than the ones they grant our firefighters.

I don’t think the firefighters or the board have acknowledged this fact.

Mary Kay Jolley,

I hope you are not referring to me as having a bias against FireFigther/Paramedics.  The HMB Review printed the same slander during the last election.

Requesting and publishing public information is not a bias.  In posting the information, I was intending to make the information available so the citizens can make informed decisions about any new Local 2400 initiated recall petitions, an election on the CalFire Contract in case it is required by the courts or a recall election of CFPD Board members. 

Depending on how these matters are resolved, it could result in significant new parcel taxes for the citizens of the Coastside or severe reductions is Fire Service levels.

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

You see this in just about every fire district in the state, and it’s getting worse. Why do you think THOUSANDS of people stand in lines for firefighting open requisitions?
There always seems to be a perfect opportunity for overtime, as this graph illustrates… despite the criticality of the fire department, many are allowed to post ridiculous hours, not sure if there are restrictions on overtime… or what the issue is with scheduling, much less hiring one additional person. The base salary for captains looks to be $100K… 8 captains getting anywhere from $25K to $65K. What am I missing, in not hiring at least 2 additional captains??? It’s always been a total racket. The hours, the overtime, the actual work. Reminds me of supermarket workers getting triple pay putting price tags on soup cans because it’s a Sunday and a holiday at the same time. Private companies operating that way… perhaps only Google could afford to operate in this fashion.
Good to see some rhetoric on here around cost-of-living adjustments for firefighters here (despite the overtime racket)... where’s this same candor for teachers???? Teachers who are local, make less than 50%, don’t get the overtime opportunities, can’t bill/account for grading papers at home at 10PM, for staying after school to have to meet with parents on our snot-nosed kids ill behavior…

Additionally, I know quite a few firefighters, and have never heard one complain about their overtime. Only when they get pulled in to fight grass/forest fires, AKA work in difficult tiresome and dangerous conditions.

Kevin, you might want to ask how many times per year the Coastside Fire Protection District actually has to unroll hoses and squirt water on a fire.  Hint:  the vast majority of their calls are medical.

Comment 14
Wed, February 6, 2008 12:30pm
JB_Cockrell
All my comments

Last time I actually checked, more than 50% of our fire fighters live out of the district, and as Leonard pointed out, some (more than one) are living out of state as well.

I don’t want to knock the Firefighters for making a good salary.  I’ll admit, I’m jealous of the amount, but if I could make $155K a year, I would (I know my wife wishes I did).  I think Vince’s story makes the average coastal resident wonder where all the discord in the local Fire Dept comes from.  With this salary you would think people would be happy in their current situation.  What is all the discontent about?

If we can do this with the Fire Dept staff, can’t we find a way to raise the salary of our school teachers?

Mr. Merrilees,

Your question is the most important question that needs to be answered:  “What is all the discontent about?” 

From the data that Mr. Williams provided, one can see that four firefighters and six firefighter/paramedics left the department in 2006 and one captain, one FF, and 7 FF/PM left the department in 2007.  The board has not hired anyone.  Two more FF/PM are leaving this month.

Why?  Why do trained, experienced FF/PM leave for other departments and start at the bottom again?

The chief has not done a single exit interview.  The captain who left had seventeen years experience.  When he wrote a letter to the newspaper, two board of directors wrote in and discounted what he wrote. 

It doesn’t seem to be the money or the benefits if this thread is accurate.

I continue to follow this story in detail, not only because my husband works for the department, but also because my family and friends live here, and we all entrust our medical emergencies and property safety to this department. 

What is the root, the core problem, the deep current of this discontent?  Until this question is asked and a solution is found, I believe that our safety will be affected whether we are CFPD or contracting out to CalFire.

Mary Kay Jolley wrote:
“Why?  Why do trained, experienced FF/PM leave for other departments and start at the bottom again?”

In 2005 Rene Maynes conducted a management audit of HMBFPD:
http://www.hmbreview.com/articles/2005/09/28/news/local_news/story02.txt

The HMBFPD Board followed the recommendation to hire an Acting Chief from outside the Department.  Since this audit there have been FIVE Chiefs and Acting Chiefs.  Your husband was one of them.

When Acting Chief Bonano left he wrote a scathing memo on the Department:
https://coastsider.com/index.php/site/news/interim_fire_chief_condemns_deficiencies_recommends_contracting_out_fire_se/

Since this memo there have been THREE Acting Chiefs.  Your husband was one of them.

The 2006 Civil Grand Jury Report notes “a culture of strife”:
https://coastsider.com/index.php/site/news/grand_jury_says_coastside_fire_districts_should_merge_and_outsource_service/


Mary Kay Jolley wrote:
“The chief has not done a single exit interview.”

During the two year period you cite(2006-2007) there were FOUR Acting Chiefs, not one.  Your husband was one of those Acting Chiefs.  Chief Cole was an actual Chief for less than one month of that two year period.  While Chief Cole was Acting Chief, he was doing two job functions: Acting Chief and covering an Operational Division Chief shift.

Mary Kay Jolley wrote:
“What is the root, the core problem, the deep current of this discontent?  Until this question is asked and a solution is found, I believe that our safety will be affected whether we are CFPD or contracting out to CalFire.”

The culture of strife as noted by the Civil Grand Jury, Chief Bonano’s memo and Rene Maynes audit.  The Board addressed that issue in 2006 and followed the Civil Grand Jury and two outside professional Chiefs recommendations to consolidate and contract for fire services.  The Boards have found a solution in a contract with CalFire.  The consolidated Board is not responsible for IAFF Local 2400 lawsuits that have delayed the implementation of the CalFire contract or individual Linestaff’s career decisions.

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Mr. Vince Williams,

Thank you for your post and the web links.

My husband Clayton Jolley was the acting chief after Chief Asche retired and before Chief Bonano arrived.  He has not been the acting chief since that time.

Comment 19
Wed, February 6, 2008 10:38pm
Carl May
All my comments

Vince Williams deflects the direct question of why firefighter/paramedics are leaving the district. I doubt that he even knows the source of the discontent, as he always has taken a stand-offish “us vs. them” stance in his messages on the firefighting staff.

So he thinks outside grand juries and outside people brought into the department for short periods have greater credibility on internal problems than some who worked in the two districts for many years.

The recent consolidation of the two districts and the consequent hurried closing of the deal to farm out the actual work of the combined district was not problem-solving behavior at all with regard to staff. All it can be taken as is an inability by the district boards to hire district administrators who could lessen the internal strife and a confession that the boards did not have a clue about how to handle personnel—so they washed their hands of the whole responsibility.

Many citizens saw through all this incompetence and voted out, en masse, the directors running for re-election and for Mr. Williams’s opponent in the last gasp of the Point Montara district. Too bad we were never asked to vote on the district consolidation issue.

There is a lot of sympathy for the firefighters in our communities—who doesn’t want to believe the first responders who might be restarting your heart or going into a burning structure filled with goodness-knows-what toxic gases to rescue a member of your family are good people?—and their direct and personal campaign efforts produced a lot of votes in the last board elections. It’s not nearly as clean and simple as rating them on pay alone.

Carl May

Mary Kay Jolley wrote:
“My husband Clayton Jolley was the acting chief after Chief Asche retired and before Chief Bonano arrived.  He has not been the acting chief since that time.”

The point I was attempting to make was that Division Chief Jolley was a part of the Management at HMBFPD/CFPD in 2006 and 2007 and there was a lot of turnover of Acting Chiefs.

Chief Jolley was Acting Chief for a portion of January 2006.

I do no know for sure when Acting Chief Bonano last day of service was or who was sworn prior to Acting Chief Hamilton on April 18, 2006.  In March there were reports that Division Chief Jolley was going to be the Acting Chief, until another Acting Chief could be hired by the HMBFPD Board.  However, Division Chief Cole attended April 11, 2006 PMFPD Board meeting, before Acting Chief Hamilton was sworn April 18, 2006.  This all occurred in a matter of weeks.

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Comment 21
Mon, February 25, 2008 3:44pm
Bill Serra
All my comments

It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money.

The link below discusses how the extravagant benefits accrued by public employees will force Vallejo to declare bankruptcy.

http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-US&brand=money&vid=4fb9c173-289a-4b9a-aa28-7383856a3d77

Comment 22
Mon, February 25, 2008 3:54pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

There’s a good description of the situation on the Chron’s website as well.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/21/MN35V5V9I.DTL

Gomes and others have blamed much of the city’s financial woes on police and fire contracts, which she says comprise 80 percent of the city’s $80 million budget.

The starting salary for a Vallejo firefighter is about $70,000 a year, among the highest in the state. Ten firefighters earned more than $200,000 each last year, including overtime, city officials said.

Barry wrote: The starting salary for a Vallejo firefighter is about $70,000 a year, among the highest in the state. Ten firefighters earned more than $200,000 each last year, including overtime, city officials said.

Once again, my point on the “overtime” racket that is going on in many districts across the state. What I find odd/compelling, is with so much overtime going on, and the golden opportunity for the media to latch on to a story of our safety being compromised by overworked emergency personnel…

...how come we never see anyone from these districts complain?

Great comments.  More relevant now, 4 years later, than before:  Alifano, Riddell, Mackintosh have set our fire district, in July 2012, on the path of returning to this old, expensive, discredited model.

Sign the recall petition to put this issue on the ballot. Volunteers are at post offices, New Leaf and Safeway

Kathryn

This is the same model that our current Board majority in 2012 want to go back to, and The President, Doug Mackintosh keeps bringing up how it’s cheaper to have fewer employees and more overtime, than to have a fully staffed department. However, in San Carlos, whose salary and benefit package our consultants have sold the Board on can’t find enough qualified people to hire, and has had to “brown out” engines and request CAL FIRE to cover over the holiday. We currently have a stable fire service with CAL FIRE, which is costing us over a million dollars a year less than a standalone, with no risk of having to shut down stations or brown out engines. That’s what this Board wants to get rid of, our cost effective service that’s been doing a great job for us..