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ConFire Chief Louder braves Contra Costa Taxpayers Association

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Friday, June 29th, 2012 at 7:39 pm in 2012 Contra Costa County election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics.

ConFire Chief Daryl Louder will walk through a wall of fire to rescue women, children and kittens.

But is he brave enough to speak at a breakfast of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, whose members have been asking tough questions about his agency’s drive to put a parcel tax measure on the November ballot?

Yep. I saw it for myself. And you can watch it, too. Contra Costa Taxpayers Association Executive Director Kris Hunt is acting as the moderator.

Click here for the main part of his speech.

Click here for the Q&A segment that followed his comments.

What comes through loud and clear in the chief’s presentation is that he views his role as that of an expert on fire protection. And he is giving the district’s elected officials and its residents his best professional advice about how to protect the community from loss of life and property due to fire.

The reasons behind district’s financial woes are numerous, pre-date his arrival two years ago and largely outside his control but what he does know, he told the taxpayers, is that without more money, he will have to shut down seven to 10 out 28 fire stations.

“I cannot protect the community with 10 fewer fire stations,” Louder said.

The county board of supervisors is looking at placing on the November ballot a fire safety tax. The details are still being worked out but supervisors directed staff to look at a $75 annual parcel tax. It would expire in seven years. Seniors age 65 and older would be exempt. The money would be used to keep open the district’s 28 fire stations but not much else.

The board has set a public hearing to vote on the tax measure for July 31, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. in the supervisors’ chambers at 651 Pine St. in Martinez.

 

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  • Truthclubber

    “…supervisors directed staff to look at a $75 annual parcel tax…”.

    I own three properties (in CoCo, more elsewhere) — so that’s $225 of “no”, better yet, “hell no”, even better yet, “no f*****g way!” that will see my ballot if and when this foolishness hits a polling place…

    CUT.

    SPENDING.

    NOW.

  • JohnW

    Considering what the lower property taxes have done to their budget, I would normally be sympathetic and receptive to a parcel tax. We can whine about the inefficiencies and unaffordable pensions, but good old Prop. 13 is also at work here. This is a high value government service. But then I read that we are on heading toward the point where pension costs will be 40% of the budget. How can that ever work?

    I was brainstorming and wondering about the possibility of just eliminating the fire district as an operating entity and replacing it with a private cooperative that would contract with a private company to do fire protection. The district (we) would still be on the hook for accrued pension benefits, but the bleeding would stop. Presumably, most of the firefighters would go to work for the new cooperative, which would have a far more rational personnel cost structure. I mention the private cooperative idea, because I’m not sure it would be legal for the county itself to de-activate the district and contract out to a private service.

  • JohnW

    Re #1

    One problem with just saying “hell no” is if your insurance goes up by an amount greater than the proposed parcel tax due to the reduced coverage and slower response times.

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  • http://californiasucks.wordpress.com/ Claire Voyance

    “Bring Us Your Finest Meats and Cheeses”

    In the last 10 fiscal years (FY 2001-02 through FY 2010-11), Contra Costa County taxpayers have spent $307,749 on food for CCCFPD.

    In FY 2007-2008, Contra Costa County taxpayers spent a whopping $57,173 on food for CCCFPD.

    Contra Costa County taxpayers should NOT be paying for food for CCCFPD staff, especially when highly compensated CCCFPD staff have more than enough money to buy their own damn food.

  • http://californiasucks.wordpress.com/ Claire Voyance

    “Overtime Orgy”

    In the last 10 fiscal years (FY 2001-02 through FY 2010-11), Contra Costa County taxpayers have spent a staggering $97,517,634 on overtime compensation for CCCFPD staff.

    Last fiscal year, FY 2010-2011, Contra Costa County taxpayers spent a whopping $12,283,360 on overtime compensation for CCCFPD staff.

    A thorough investigation of overtime must be conducted to determine whether the rules are being manipulated to maximize overtime.

    Furthermore, IF FIREFIGHTERS ARE ABLE AND WILLING TO WORK THIS MANY HOURS, THE STANDARD (I.E. NON-OVERTIME) WORK HOURS SHOULD BE SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED.

  • http://californiasucks.wordpress.com/ Claire Voyance

    A thorough investigation of overtime must be conducted to determine whether the rules are being manipulated to maximize overtime.

  • Truthclubber

    @3 –

    Given what I paid for them (after the bubble), and what I already need to cover them for, insurance-wise, as their “replacement cost”, if they burn to the ground, I make out like a bandito, so “burn, baby, burn!”

    Also: What Claire Voyance said.

    Perhaps this district needs to “do a Stockton”… ;-)

  • JohnW

    @8

    Ha! Well, given your remarks, I’m sure an insurance company arson investigation will ensue should your properties ever be consumed by flames.

  • http://californiasucks.wordpress.com/ Claire Voyance

    If firefighters took a pay cut, stopped abusing overtime, paid for their own damn food, and stopped attending expensive classes at Harvard, there would be money available to fully staff Confire.

    Budgeting 101

    [Step 1] Total Funds Available minus Non-Personnel Costs equals Funds Available for Personnel Costs

    [Step 2] Funds Available for Personnel Costs divided by Number of Personnel Needed equals Compensation Offer for Each Employee.

    Take it or leave it.

    If the County can only afford to pay minimum wage to firefighters to ensure a fully staffed fired department, the County should only offer to pay minimum wage. If any firefighter rejects that offer, such firefighter must return any department property and go find a different job.

  • http://californiasucks.wordpress.com/ Claire Voyance

    A Contra Costa County firefighter had total cost of employment of $380,666

    INCLUDING $161,642 in overtime pay

    http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area/2011

  • JohnW

    #10

    Payroll budgeting metrics. I like it. One thing I find frustrating about state and local government is that all the budget and spending information is categorized in functional and programmatic terms. You can’t get a breakdown of payroll cost components for each agency and departments within agencies. It’s nice that individual salary and benefits information is available online. It’s a good way to see some of the absurdities. But it doesn’t help as a budget analysis tool.

  • Don Stabler

    The Contra Costa County Fire District has pretty much been under funded for at least a couple of decades. While this tax will help keep them status quo, in the long run it is putting a bandaid on a severed artery. The County and the District need to insure a plan is in place for purchasing apparatus, returning the browned out companies, money for station relocations and additional stations to better serve the citizens. For example, a station was to built on the border of Lafayette, Pleasant Hill & Martinez…Station 21..still not there. This and other areas need to be addressed to response within the window of saving lives and property.

  • clairvoyance is blurry

    I’m a CCCFPD firefighter and last time I checked I paid for my own food 100% of the time over the past 9 years. Check your facts Clair.

  • Bruce R. Peterson Lafayette

    Firefighters have been instrumental in county political campaigns for decades. Their candidate usually wins. The firefighters reap the rewards. Their pay & pensions are obscene. They receive overtime pay for sleeping at the firehouse, then add that pay to their pension @ 50 years old.
    Bankruptcy appears to be the only way out. Let a bankruptcy court decide who gets paid.

  • JohnW

    If Vallejo is an indication, bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily address the issue either. As somebody pointed out during the Q&A on the video, salaries were raised to cover the pension contributions the firefighters paid. All that did, of course, is increase the pension benefit calculations. I guess you could say the taxpayers “get hosed” either way.

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  • Jerry Lyle

    If the firefighters pay their full share of retirement and change the pension plan for current employees, not just new hires, then MAYBE the tax will pass. Otherwise they’re just asking for another sacrifice from the tax paying public – who have experienced serious sacrifices in the form of pay cuts and job losses – without making a serious one themselves, first. Another option is to fire them all and rehire under a new, more reasonable compensation plan. And let’s stop voting for ANY candidate who is backed by ANY public employee group.

  • Publius

    RE:#2

    “The district (we) would still be on the hook for accrued pension benefits”

    I do not agree. Contracts are broken all of the time. The insane pensions promised by our elected politicians can be re-worked. All we need is public pressure and some strong elected officials that are not owned and operated by the public sector unions. I am not saying that we as a community turn our back on current and future pension recipients. The current and future pension pay outs can and need to be redefined in a way that makes sense for the tax payer. The system as it is right now is unsustainable. I will not vote for any new tax measure until the pension problem is dealt with.

  • JohnW

    Re: 18

    I completely agree that we need a way to deal with retirement benefits for current employees, not just new employees. I even think you can make a moral case (not sure about the legal case) for rolling back benefits being paid to current retirees and accrued by current employees to pre-1999 levels.

    Seems to me the post-1999 benefits and retirement age adjustments were approved based on intentionally fraudulent misrepresentation of the financial facts and broken promises that taxpayers would never be on the hook to contribute more to fund the benefits. They were applied retroactively to people who can’t argue that they relied on those promised benefits when they became government employees. And surely all the spiking practices are nothing but self-dealing plundering and looting of the public treasury.

  • JohnW

    My comment @20 is in response to Publius @19.

    As for Jerry Lyle @18, I agree. However, I wish people would stop suggesting that pension reform is a prerequisite to approving the governor’s proposed new taxes. The big tax increases on upper income people are problematic regardless of whether or not we get pension reform.

    Our marginal tax rates at the top end are already the highest in the continental U.S. People in the upper income groups have plenty of legitimate ways and incentive to reduce or eliminate their exposure to still higher rates. That’s not even including those who move companies to other states, or who choose to start up or expand operations in other states. My fear is that we end up with the worst of two worlds. Even higher rates at the top end and little additional revenue to show for it. It’s got nothing to do with fairness to this or that group. It’s about economics.

    I’m not anti-tax. On the federal level, I favor easing back to the Clinton tax rates and/or eliminating itemized deductions and similar tax expenditures, along with spending reforms, to get our fiscal house in order.

  • Common Tater

    Chief Louder was quite long-winded in his response to questions. He knows that the longer you talk, the fewer questions you have to answer.

    Unfortunately, his credibility suffers because of this.

  • http://californiasucks.wordpress.com/ Claire Voyance
  • Elwood

    If firefighters union leaders really represented their membership, they would put this question to them:

    “Do you want to save your job by reducing wage and benefit costs?”

    Any contract can be abrogated/amended by mutual agreement.

  • JohnW

    Re: #24

    From what I’ve seen, the firefighters and police who have influence in their unions have the seniority and don’t care if layoffs are used to preserve their benefits. They don’t worry about getting laid off themselves, keep their benefits and probably end up getting more overtime due to short staffing.

  • http://californiasucks.wordpress.com/ Claire Voyance

    John W,

    Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.

    That appears to be the pathetic, selfish reality.

  • Rick K.

    Let’s be honest about what this parcel tax really is – “The Firefighter Bloated Pension Bailout Tax”. Does anyone know what kind of pension scheme Contra Costa Fire is on? Is it 3% at 50? If it’s 3% at 50 for all current and future employees, no rational citizen should support any parcel tax. No rank-and-file public servant deserves to retire at age 50 with a guaranteed $100,000+ per year (plus cost of living adjustments) for life. These greedy guys have rigged the system to create a “gravy train” for themselves while the rest of the public sector suffers. And in #25, John W. hit it accurately, right on the head. The senior firefighters spout off all that “solidarity forever” and “all brothers are equal” claptrap, and then screw over the younger firefighters and new hires so that they can preserve “Cadillac benefits” for themselves. Hmmm … maybe we should go back to have “volunteer firefighters” to supplement the “professional” force, just how things were done 40-50 years ago. That ought to save a lot of $$$!

  • http://californiasucks.wordpress.com/ Claire Voyance

    I am very interested about hearing the younger firefighters’ opinions about the senior firefighters.

    Do the younger firefighters feel that the senior firefighters don’t care about the younger firefighters?

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the union meeting when the filthy rich senior firefighters give layoff notices to the younger firefighters, which will occur when the parcel tax “goes down in flames!”

  • JohnW

    Don’t know what we’re all whining about. Retire at 50, live to 80, with a $100k pension, that’s only $3 million, not including guaranteed cost of living adjustments, with or without inflation. Add in at least another $300k or so for health care. What’s the problem?

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