With all the hullabaloo going around this week about Eureka’s budget reviews and the need for change in the way the CALPERS pension system works, we couldn’t resist the urge to look a little more deeply into the issue.
To be honest, it’s mostly because we thought that Parks and Rec. Director Miles Slattery and Fireman Jeff Broberg verbal throw down was absolutely hilarious. As you may recall (or may not, if you were too lazy to click on the link), Mr. Slattery took aim at the City of Eureka’s overtime payments to fire fighters and harshly criticized the practice.
Miles Slattery actually made some strong points in his Op-Ed on Monday, even though he was such a hypocritical asshole when he did it. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the safety of the public if we had more firefighters working shorter shifts?
Well, here’s some math that makes us think that yeah, maybe it would be. Strap in, kids – we actually did some research this time around.
According to our good friends over at Transparent California, the City of Eureka alone paid out $1,012,174.42 in overtime to fire companies over the years 2011-2013.
Again, that’s $1,012,174.42. In overtime alone; that has nothing to do with salaries or benefits.
Yes, that is spread over a 3 year period. However, if you check out this really cool article by the Sacramento Bee (and use the handy-dandy calculator for police and fire service salaries that goes along with it), you will see that the average yearly salary for a Eureka fire engineer was $72,778 during that period as well.
Now, bear with me, as I figured all of this out with an abacus and lines drawn in the dirt, but:
$1,012,174.42 / $72,778 = 13.907, or almost 14.
Which means that the same overtime pay shelled out by the city from 2011-2103 could have covered nearly 14 salaried fire engineer positions over that same period.
What’s that you say? Fire fighters make way freakin’ more than that due to their benefits? You are correct! What do you win? The need to pay even higher taxes!
According to the same Sacramento Bee article (using 2013 data), the average fire fighter in California took home about $125,000 bucks a year in total compensation. It should be noted that number is certainly a little bit lower for Humboldt’s finest.
But even if we use the higher number, we get this:
$1,012,174.42 / $125,000 = 8.09
Which means that when taking all forms of compensation into account, the amount that Eureka paid to fire fighters in overtime compensation from 2011-2013 could have paid for 8 more full-time fire fighters over that same time.
Remember how Eureka has one of the highest unfunded CALPERS pension burdens of all cities in California? Well, every time a someone gets paid overtime like Eureka fire fighters receive, it bumps up the contribution that the City of Eureka has to give to their pension fund.
All of which means that the City keeps digging itself a deeper and deeper hole, fire service gets more expensive for less effective public protection as the fire department is forced to make cuts, and, as always, average Joes like you and I get screwed in the process.
Good job, Eureka. Thank goodness we’ve got parklets on the way though!