Thursday, April 22, 2010

FOUND: Wealthy Fire Fighter

Last week, Fire Starter gave lie to myth of the 85K fire fighter in the Village of Johnson. We now are writing to issue a formal apology for last week’s post. Apparently, our information was flawed. There is a fire fighter getting rich in the Village, and he is only part time!

Fire Administrator Stephen Hrustich has feathered his nest nicely in the Village of Johnson City. For fiscal year 2009-2010, Hrustich was scheduled to receive a base salary of from the Village of Endicott of almost $86,000 (Aha…the 85k firefighter is found!). In addition, he was scheduled to receive many standard benefits such as health insurance (at no cost to Hrustich!) and retirement.

The Village of Johnson City (apparently feeling left out for not having an 85K fire fighter) approached the Village of Endicott about sharing its well heeled chief. The arrangement would be that Hrustich would work half time at each department. In return for working the same amount of time between two departments, Hrustich would receive a 26% pay increase plus associated increases in payroll and other expense. In addition, he has been granted other perks such as free use of a Village of Johnson City vehicle (with gas provided by the by the Village of Endicott) and a $1,200 allowance for his cell phone.

The result, Fire Administrator Hrustich has received a base salary of $115,754! With other costs rolled in, the cost to the taxpayers of both Villages is a whopping $164,793 or 82,396 per village!

While Fire Starter begrudges no one an honest days pay for an honest days work, we question whether either is present in this case. The Fire Administrator is not required to work any additional hours to earn his overnight 26% pay increase. In a time of budget shortfalls and layoffs, this appears to be an extravagant compensation package. This is particularly true when compared to other municipal employees. Fire Starter has determined that Fire Administrator Hrustich is the fourth highest paid municipal employee in Broome County. Only two County Psychiatrists (MD’s) and the District Attorney make more than the Fire Administrator. Not bad for two part time jobs!

The Chief of the Binghamton Fire Department, Daniel Thomas, made $86,964 for calendar year 2009. This is remarkable, if for no other reason than Binghamton's Fire Department is roughly double the size of Endicott and Johnson City departments combined!

Fire Starter has learned that had the Village of Johnson City promoted from within, the cost to taxpayers would have been approximately $30,000. This figure would have encompassed the pay increases for all associated promotions within the department. And the Village would have a FULL TIME Chief (And the village would have had nearly 55K to spare to put toward a FULL TIME fire fighter who would actually FIGHT FIRES.) If this represents belt tightening in the Village of Johnson City, it appears to be a total failure. However, it appears that Mayor Hannon was willing to spare no expense to obtain his “yes man”. The only real question is whether we the tax payers are willing to fund Hannon’s empire building.

On a final note, Mayor Hannon has done a spectacular job of saving money for taxpayers…in Endicott. Their chief was scheduled to cost them $129,408 for fiscal year 2009-2010. Through this agreement, Endicott has saved over $45,800 just this past year…courtesy of the taxpayers of Johnson City.

UPDATE: Fire Starter has learned that the village vehicle and gas is an even sweeter deal than first thought. Apparently, Fire Administrator Hrustich lives in Tioga County and is able to utilize the Johnson City vehicle and Endicott gas to travel to and from work every day (over 25 miles round trip daily). It is great that he is able to save the wear and tear on his own vehicle. Thank you taxpayers!

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