Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Where Have All the Wealthy Fire Fighters Gone?

They have become the “Welfare Queens” of the 21st Century. (You probably remember the urban legends of women on welfare living high on the hog). Today, it is the mythical fire fighter who is making over 85k a year while local private sector employees get laid off. Who are these public employees? Surely there must be some among the ranks of the Johnson City Fire Fighters! (No there are not, and don’t call me Shirley!)

Much has been made of the “41%” raises the Johnson City firefighters received over the 5 year contract with the Village of Johnson City. What is rarely talked about is the fact that for years, the Village Fire Fighters agreed to smaller pay increases than othr municipal employees in return for not paying into their health insurance. In addition, prior to the current contract, there was a minimum department size guaranteed under the contract.

Under the current contract, Village Fire Fighters contribute to their health insurance much like all other public employees. In addition, the department is now 7 fire fighters smaller than it was just 5 years ago (not including the laid off 6). This is due largely to the elimination of the minimum manning clause. These changes were demanded by the Village and were part of the negotiated agreement leading to the current contract.

Well surely (there you go again), JC Fire Fighters, with their current contract have far surpassed other local fire departments in salary. In fact, a side by side comparison of pay reveals otherwise.

The Binghamton Press &Sun Bulletin published salaries for local government workers for 2008. Unfortunately for the JC Fire Fighters, this was the calendar year in which they received 2 years of retroactive pay increases. However, if one were to compare JC Firefighter’s 2008-2009 contract pay with the average pay for other municipal fire fighters, an interesting pattern emerges:

First Grade Fire Fighter:

Binghamton: $64,551

Endicott: $60,189

Johnson City: $61,891

Fire Lieutenant:

Binghamton: $65,489

Endicott: $73,017

Johnson City: $67,167

Fire Captain:

Binghamton: $76,830

Endicott: $72,985

Johnson City $71,712

A side by side comparison reveals that the Johnson City pay was in line with neighboring municipalities. In other words, in return for their concessions regarding health insurance and manning, they have begun to come in line with other firefighters in the area.

I have not heard the Johnson City Fire Fighters complaining about their salaries or jobs. I believe they are hard working public servants who appreciate the jobs they have. Daily, they risk their lives for the citizens they serve. They appreciate the fact that taxpayers work hard to fund their salaries. Perhaps the Village Board and Mayor should show the same appreciation for village taxpayers.

Now, about that 85k per year fire fighter…there do not seem to be any full time fire fighters in JC earning that kind of salary. Perhaps there is a part time employee who makes the equivalent of 85k…or more.

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