Yes, many city of Chico employees are overcompensated

27 Dec

NOTE: a person recently tried to get my contact information from the ER editor saying they wanted to discuss this piece – look for the “comment” button at the bottom of the page. If you want to be anonymous, let me know, or just use an acronym. 

Right now, our city “leaders” are kicking around the city employee contracts, and as everybody knows by now, the most important of those contracts are police, fire, and management in general. These employees are not only our most highly paid, but currently pay little to nothing for their  very generous benefits and pension packages. The “public safetly” employees also manage to bolster their agreed-upon salaries with 10’s of thousands in overtime. They also get some pretty ridiculous perks – for example, police officers are paid to put on and take off their uniforms, paid to shower (including the water and gas bills that put the department over budget), paid to work out at the gym, and if their hijinks get them sued, we pay their lawyer and pay them to sit in court. They get vision, dental, life insurance, rest-home insurance, etc, etc, etc. And out of their average $90,000 a year salaries (before overtime), they don’t pay squat for their pensions – 9o percent of their highest year’s salary, available at age 50.

Meanwhile, any cop will tell you, fire employees get paid to sleep, shower, sit on their X-boxes, eat, shop, whatever they want to do over their shifts. They don’t work a normal eight hour shift like private employees, they’ve manipulated a guaranteed overtime system by threatening us with “slow response times.” Sure, they’ve got that hook and ladder at the grocery store around the corner from your house, but they’re all inside the store loading up groceries they don’t pay for to eat on our dime. Sorry, but everybody knows this is true. They chase ambulances, with no recompense from the ambulance companies, who charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 per mile for your patient to be transported. And then you pay for the  fire department too, isn’t that funny? And you pay for their medical and legal expenses, and you pay for them to sit on their asses into perpetuity when they turn 50 years old. 

So, excuse me if I feel these people need to be taken to task, I don’t care if they are insulted. It hurts my feelings when I have to pay my property taxes to foot the bill for a bunch of guys to sit around farting in front of a big screen tv.

There’s been some discussion in the letters section, I hope there will be more. Below I’ve got a few letters I’ve seen, although I’ve missed others, I wanted to get these out here, get some more conversation out of them. The ER not only dumps letters after a day or so, but the forum they run demands that you have Facebook, and isn’t available to those who don’t have an online subscription. So, here are a couple of pro-employee letters, and one from Michael Jones that I think says it very well. 

Letter: Police, fire not overcompensated

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   11/30/2013 10:39:31 PM PST
 
 

One letter printed Nov. 24 (“Stone sticks up for taxpayers”) was reported that, “The average police or fireperson in Chico makes three times as much in wages and benefits as the average Chico taxpayer.”The city of Chico is currently advertising for a police patrol officer position. The listed salary range is $53,000 to $71,000. City of Chico firefighters are close to that same salary range, from $55,00 to $77,500.

Even using the higher Chico firefighter wages, a third of their listed salaries would be just over $18,000 (low) and nearly $26,000 (high).

The lowest Chico-wide mean salary (i.e., average Chico taxpayer) I’ve found online was $36,000 (“Simply Hired”) and the highest was almost $69,500 (“Salary List”).

While I recognize that the level of contractual benefits that can be earned — above and beyond the base salary — can vary significantly from one career to the next, I believe it is somewhat disingenuous to suggest that Chico police officers and firefighters are grossly overcompensated in relation to the average Chico taxpayer.

On a side note, due to the Windfall Elimination Provision, police, firefighters and public school teachers receive virtually nothing in Social Security benefits — even if those benefits were rightfully earned in work done prior to the public service employee’s pension years.

— Mark S. Gailey, Chico

I’m sorry, yes they are too!  Gailey tries to play the numbers, but it’s all there. Yes, a lot of private citizens in Chico, including my family, live on less than $30,000. The average cop makes about $92,000, and many firefighters as much as double their $55 – 75,000 salaries with overtime.  That’s about three times the average or “mean” income. And, we’re comparing one person’s wages to a “household” income. 

He says they receive “virtually nothing” in social security – “virtually” is in the eye of the beholder. Read the contracts yourselves, you won’t believe all the perks they get. Gailey is using the facts he likes and leaving the rest out.  He’s betting nobody really reads those contracts. Please do, they’re available on the city website, under Human Resources.

Now, here, Don Grant says we must not blame the employee, it’s the politicians’ fault:

Letter: Blame politicians, not employees

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   12/11/2013 09:59:37 PM PST

 Read a letter the other day from a Joseph Neff concerning his ideas on public pensions. I have seen several letters targeting public pensions and workers and it seems that is a favorite target for individuals to vent toward.What almost all of these people don’t realize is the pay and pension programs for these public employees were not just handed out to them. These are all negotiated pay scales and benefit packages that elected or appointed officials have negotiated with the respective groups of employees. These are the same employees who year after year have gone without any raises and usually each year have had to give just to be able to stay employed. Most of these individuals make under $45,000 per year and still have to contribute a portion of that to their health coverage and public pension.

I would like to see Neff provide for a family of four all the necessary basics on that salary and still be able to save for retirement as he suggests. He also says that SSI will make up the rest. Who’s to say SSI will be available in the future. Invest in 401(k)? Does the crash of 2008 ring a bell?

Stop lambasting the public worker. They do a very fine job. I hope this blame game will run its course and get these sour grape people off their necks, and no I have never held a public works position. Private sector only.

— Don Grant, Oroville

Maybe Mr. Grant is talking about city of Oroville when he mentions employees who’ve gone without pay raises – not Chico or Butte County. I was just looking at the salaries for managing the county dump, and those guys have received $10 – 20,000 in raises over the last few years. City of Chico employees, especially cops and fire, have gone right along getting their scheduled raises – they just promoted a bunch of cops, and I’ve seen two now retire within a year to six months of promotion – Dye and Laver. That’s called “spiking,” and now those two will retire at 90 percent of their newly inflated salaries. 

Mr. Grant seems to be trying to use the lower paid “classified staff” as shields – yes, the lower paid employees get less salary, but they also get a benefits and retirement package for which they only pay nine percent of the cost. I will leave my little violin in it’s case. 

Finally Mr. Grant, I will continue to lambaste a group of people who expect to be kept like prize pigs. PAY YOUR OWN BENEFITS, SOOOOO-UUUU-IIIIIIEEE!  Then I’ll stop basting you. Oh, excuse me, I guess I meant lambasting!  It’s just all this pork folks, it gets me a little excited.

Finally, I’m so glad to see Michael Jones getting in there. Mr. Jones is more patient than I am, he is willing to take the conversation further without stomping on the floor until his foot gets stuck. That would be me.

Letter: Big pensions lead to big expense cuts

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   12/16/2013 09:16:55 PM PST

No one begrudges the public employee who makes $45,000 a year, and retires on less than that. But Chico firefighters on average make $80,000 a year and retire on $90,000 a year. And can retire at age 50.

That’s why the public employees over in maintenance and parks are being laid off. The City Council needs to correct this misallocation of resources. Mayor Scott Gruendl is up for re-election next November. Here’s his chance to earn it.

— Michael Jones, Chico

Yes, he’s put his finger right on it – we have a misallocation of resources.  I don’t want to talk about “what people are worth.” If you want to go there, I’ll tell you what – I’m worth a lot more than that little shit, Ken Campbell. So, like I say, let’s not go there. Let’s just set a wage that’s available for performing a certain task. Let’s say if you don’t like that  wage you can hit the road and give somebody else a chance. And, given a reasonable wage, we should expect our employees to take care of their own retirement and medical expenses, with some compensation for years of service, but not just a guaranteed free ride all the way through. 

The real problem here is management. Our overcompensated city manager also plays double as our contract negotiator. I think I finally understand the expression, “in the catbird seat…

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