Tri-City area City Managers were asked last night about a pension benefit that allows police officers and firefighters to retire after 30 years of service and collect at least 90 percent of their final salary every year for the rest of their lives.
Newark’s John Becker didn’t hesitate to answer:
“That’s a huge problem,” he said of the pension benefit which is more generous than those allotted to any other type of public employee. But, he added, there isn’t much his city or others can do about it.
“Public safety unions exert a lot of influence,” he said. “They’re a very influential group at all levels of government.”
Union City Manager Larry Cheeves chimed in, “What John said is absolutely true.”
Fremont City Manager Fred Diaz didn’t say anything.
The forum, on the cities’ budget issues, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and moderated by former Fremont Councilmember Dominic Dutra.
I give Dutra a lot credit for bringing the high cost of public safety employees into the discussion.
It’s rarely mentioned during debates about property tax hikes or burglar alarm response, but it’s hard to have the public safety staffing people want when you’re paying police and fire well more than double the national average.
With The Argus going through yet another round of layoffs, I’ve recently started looking at the The Career Handbook, 2008-09 Edition. According to the handbook, the median salary for police officers in 2006 was $47,460. For firefighters, it was $41,190.
For sworn officers who made at least $70,000 in base salary in 2006, the average salary (including overtime) was $124,226. For firefighters, not including the chief and division chief, it was $136,333.