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Con Fire Tax is another waste

Original post made by Taxpayer out of money, another community, on Jul 1, 2012

The new tax asked for by Con Fire and the Board of Supervisors needs to be voted down just like East County. These politicians and union special interest will bleed us dry of every dollar we have unless we send them a message to stop giving away our savings. Stop mortgaging our children's future. Stop overpaying benefits and salaries with our money. There are other avenues to rectify the fire district funding issue other than ask for more money. Just say NO. They have other options but fail to choose them because of the politics.

Go to: Web Link

Look up Fire Departments Contra Costa and you will see why they want more money. You will also see the pay is overwhelming, out of control, and ridiculous. The benefits are even worse. Watch the threat tactics used if you do not agree to pay more money. Watch the remarks to this comment from firefighters. It has to stop before our children are mortgaged to debt and have no fire department but the retirees.

Comments (18)

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Posted by Voter8023
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Examples of why you need to pay more taxes;

Contra Costa County Clausen, Curtis D Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $305,426
Contra Costa County Pohlhammer, Michael K Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $308,761
Contra Costa County Woods, David R Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $299,665
Contra Costa County Walker, William J Battalion Chief-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $298,307
Contra Costa County Platt, Kevin M Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $296,588
Contra Costa County Brondolo, Alfred Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $285,614
Contra Costa County Stovell, Joy P Fire Engineer/56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $285,216
Contra Costa County Quesada, Michael S Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $283,389
Contra Costa County Manzo Jr., Louis Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $281,676
Contra Costa County Kipp, John P Battalion Chief-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $280,592
Contra Costa County Peterson, Darin E Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $279,712
Contra Costa County Smart, Jamie B. Fire Engineer/56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $276,982
Contra Costa County Cormier, Keith J Battalion Chief-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $276,163
Contra Costa County Sonsteng, Richard J Battalion Chief-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $276,124
Contra Costa County Penaloza, Franklin Fire Engineer/56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $273,388
Contra Costa County Newberry, Terry R Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $273,214
Contra Costa County Freeman Jr, Richard M Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $271,466
Contra Costa County Wannamaker, Scott A Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $270,252
County Stralovich, Catherine S Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $269,434
Contra Costa County Smith, Benjamin T Battalion Chief-40 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $269,366
Contra Costa County Dick, Eugene E Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $269,098
Contra Costa County Alailima Jr, Elia Fire Engineer/56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $268,192
Contra Costa County Hartford, Alan B Battalion Chief-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $267,720
Contra Costa County Walker, Ronnie M Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $265,826
Contra Costa County Gleeson, Tim P Fire Engineer/56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $264,826
Contra Costa County Depolo, Matthew J. Fire Engineer/56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $264,821
Contra Costa County Danielson, Donald C Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $264,787
Contra Costa County Burris Jr., Xon C Fire Captain-56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $264,396
Contra Costa County Robb, Kenneth R Fire Engineer/56 Hour
Ccc Fire Protection District $262,857

This is just a quick sample of what the taxpayer will be paying in pensions too. This will never end unless the voters take action.


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Posted by JT
a resident of Danville
on Jul 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm

This is absolutely outrageous. Who hear believes that a fire captain is worth paying that much money too. Are they making their companies more profitable? No! Are they saving more lives than the basic fireman? No!
They are managing a staff!!!! And fighting some fires.
Here is what I think they are worth Maximum of $150K per year and when they retire after 40 years, they get what they have contributed to their 401Ks plus medicare. Otherwise max out everyones retirement benefits.

I say let's bankrupt the fire districts so we can throw out the generous retirement benefits, just like all of the major companies did in the 80s and 90s, and went to a contribution model.


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Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm

You might want to look a little closer at the database these figures were lifted from. Not only is it inaccurate information, but the numbers listed are not salaries.

A fire captain in Con fire makes about 96 thousand a year and contributes 26 percent of that to fund his/her retirement.

The person that posted the erroneous figures is a known blogger that doesn't live in the district and neither is the Danville resident! Con Fire Doesn't cover Danville, or East County, so neither is subject to the proposed tax. This makes me wonder why these two bloggers are purposely trying to deceive readers when they themselves are not accountable or subject to this proposal.


Get the facts. Get informed.


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Posted by C-Mudge
a resident of Danville
on Jul 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm

FC: I would think you'd have cited YOUR sources. Please do.

Also, why does what a ffr chooses to contribute to his/her pension concern me? What I'M contributing, now that's another matter.

And pls also indicate why you think the newspapers' data are wrong.

Thx.


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Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm

C-Mudge,

Since you indicated in your post that you are aware of the "newspapers" data, I wonder why you ask me to cite my source when the figures I provided concur with what is listed there? My data is from many sources including current/retired employees, County HR, and is no trade secret. The numbers cited are posted; Web Link

The original poster manipulated those numbers to substitute TCOE (Total cost of employment) for salary, known as a classic bait and switch. Perusing the flawed newspapers' database shows base salary of a fire captain as 96k, engineer 93k and firefighter 85k. Compared to other municipalities listed on that very same database it appears Con Fire employees are at the lower end of the pay scale amongst their bay area peers.

Firefighters don't get to "choose" what they contribute to their pensions any more than what they choose to pay in income taxes. I believe they are mandated to fund it so that they can retire before work related injuries put them out on tax free workers comp retirements.

The employee's retirement contribution as it relates to salary might be of interest when weighing if they are over or under compensated for the bay area-or addressing pension 'reform'. Taking a salary of 96k and subtracting a mandatory pension contribution of 26 percent (25k) leaves the employee (fire captain) with a 75k base salary.

If you are from Danville then you contribute nothing to their retirements. You are not in the Con fire district. You are in San Ramon's fire district which is an independent district and completely separate from the county/Con fire.

The CCtimes never really wanted you to know any of that. It's simple really. With the economic hit on newspapers in general, "creating news" sells more papers than simple reporting. The Times has figured it out and to their demise, much of the former readership has too.

I'm not looking to go round and round with you and I don't work for Con Fire-so if that is where you are going save us both the time.
If you are looking for more information I would suggest this website Web Link or Web Link

Get the facts. Get informed.


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Posted by C-Mudge
a resident of Danville
on Jul 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Look, FC, the newspapers' database is linked in the source article -- your post implied to me that your source was different from the one you labeled "inaccurate."

There is nothing in the original poster's comment that says "salary." The term does not appear in his comment.

Are you saying the pension component quoted in the newspapers' database is double-counting? If not, then the Total Cost of the employee "is" of interest, since that is the total cost borne by taxpayers. If the CCTimes did not fabricate those clearly labeled numbers, then I'm glad to have them. That's their job, which they don't do nearly enough. It's part of "getting the facts, and getting informed."

I do not have an axe to grind on this specific issue -- I was, frankly, just trying to understand the basis of your concern with the disclosures. Turns out it's a lot Less than I thought. When I see other local government services sacrificed on the police&fire altar, that "does" worry me.

So, can you point us in the general direction of the same figures for the Danville area's firefighters?


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Posted by C-Mudge
a resident of Danville
on Jul 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Turns out I could do it myself with a few clicks and my friend XL (I hope this works!):


Position Cash PnBfts Total Cost (K)
Asst Chief, Emerg Ops. 297 195 492
Chief 260 174 434
Asst Chief, Facilities 228 165 393
Batal. Chief, Emerg Op. 238 131 369
Batal. Chief, Emerg Op. 229 137 366
Captain Paramedic 240 119 359
Batal. Chief, Emerg Op. 213 133 346
Batal. Chief, Emerg Op. 208 127 335
Captain, Emerg. Ops. 219 114 333


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Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm

C-Mudge,
Sorry if I wasn't clear. My sources included the cctimes, but are not limited to them. As I pointed out in my previous post, I have several sources and speak to many employees directly (not just fire) and have found out for the most part, the cctimes database is inaccurate and at the very least misleading. I know firsthand it is "inaccurate" and if you dig any further than the cctimes own data that will become clear. I did not mean to be confusing by identifying the base salaries.

Actually while the original poster and following poster did not specifically use the term salary, he/she most definitely implied it. This is not my first reading of such posts and I highly doubt that you did not see the implication also. I have watched many fire hearings and workshops out of genuine interest and after reading the posts, it is evident, either he/she is missing the most basic facts, or he/she is purposely trying to mislead you. There are only two choices- pass a tax and keep the firehouses open, or vote it down and close up to ten stations. There is no third choice as he/she implies. According to testimony, and official record, the department has cut to the bone & the employees have cut salaries 10 percent.

The initial poster posted the weblink and then commented specifically; "You will also see the pay is overwhelming, out of control, and ridiculous." So knowing that the base pay (salary)of a fire captain is roughly 96k, minus 25k for mandatory retirement contributions that leaves a taxable salary of 70k (+/-). Remembering that neither the employer or employee has any control over costs of benefits…including out of control healthcare. Oh, that's right that is how private industry works! Makes one wonder where the times came up with those figures huh? Yes, I do believe to some degree they are double counting and applying figures incorrectly. Personally I think they should be paying more attention to the drivers of these costs and not the employers or employees who have no control. Then again that would be asking the times to be honest with its readers, and that is not going to happen. Again, no real secret there.

So to be clear, what I read above after investing my time trying to learn the real facts, is someone posting here that these firefighters are overpaid and then someone else piling on with compensation figures ranging from 262k-305k. In my book that is deceitful.

C-Mudge, I think this subject really comes down to the monumental loss of property tax revenues. Have yours been lowered? If you listened or watched the fire tax hearings it was pointed out that unlike other public services, the fire department runs soley off of property tax revenue. Plain and simple they are asking for 75 dollars to offset the hundreds (if not thousands) that has been lost through declines in property tax funding. But again if you live in Danville, you don't live in the district so you don't pay-there is no crossover of funds.

I have no axe to grind and you sound like a very logical individual. It is my hope that this exchange sheds some light. Where we may differ is I believe PD and fire, are the thin line that protects us. I see a tendency to take that for granted until we need help. It is easy to sit behind a keyboard and dismiss our individual vulnerability. What other government services are you seeing sacrificed in lieu of police and fire?

I believe you can find the information you seek on your own fire department (San Ramon) which is governed by its own board of locally elected directors (not the county) at this website. If I remember correctly it won a national award for its website. Hopefully it contains the info you want. Web Link


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Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm

C-Mudge,

Looks like our posts crossed.

You might want to double check those numbers. I believe the fire chiefs salary is currently $1 dollar.
For the most part the numbers look correct and inline for chief officers and upper management. From what I have seen actual "salary" accounts for about ˝ of total cost which you have listed. Your fire district is similar to the one in Orinda-Moraga and unlike Confire is very well funded through other revenues.


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Posted by Voter8024
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm

San Ramon Fire is even worse. The only thing people should be concerned with is the bottom line cost of the individual paid by the public tax dollars. Here in San Ramon its high annual person cost is $492,017.00 to the taxpayer.

Get informed get educated with what it costs to taxpayers not some base number. When I pay my taxes I pay all of them not just the base number. I wish I could pay just the base number. So these numbers are as real as it gets.
$492,017.00
$435,422.00
$393,332.00
and so on This is all that matters because it is what the taxpayers give up for that position anually. Thats terrible.

San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Collins, Bryan Assistant Chief
Emergency Operations $196,040 $0 $101,295 $31,058 $159,272 $0 $0 $4,353 $492,017
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Price, Richard R. Fire Chief
Fire Chief $208,104 $0 $52,306 $21,293 $149,475 $0 $0 $4,244 $435,422
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Hart, Steven J. Assistant Chief
Facilities $180,960 $0 $47,305 $30,728 $130,935 $0 $0 $3,403 $393,332
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Viera, John E. Batallion Chief
Emergency Operations $144,756 $55,787 $36,575 $24,242 $104,011 $0 $0 $3,490 $368,861
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Barton, John F. Batallion Chief
Emergency Operations $144,756 $37,107 $46,680 $24,242 $109,806 $0 $0 $2,584 $365,176
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Dakin, Matthew W. Captain Paramedic
Emergency Operations $106,236 $91,676 $41,620 $31,058 $84,619 $0 $0 $3,354 $358,563
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Picard, Michael J. Batallion Chief
Emergency Operations $144,251 $22,927 $45,598 $20,919 $109,254 $0 $0 $3,179 $346,127
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Krause, Derek K. Batallion Chief
Emergency Operations $144,756 $21,153 $43,066 $15,751 $107,581 $0 $0 $2,817 $335,124
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Garske, Michael J. Captain
Emergency Operations $115,089 $50,981 $53,365 $20,919 $91,443 $0 $0 $2,420 $334,216
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. McNamara, Daniel P. Captain Paramedic
Emergency Operations $106,236 $68,316 $36,466 $31,058 $81,859 $0 $0 $3,153 $327,088
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Ott, Leo D. Captain
Emergency Operations $106,236 $71,424 $30,777 $30,334 $78,715 $0 $0 $3,064 $320,549
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Martin III, James Captain Paramedic
Emergency Operations $106,236 $65,236 $36,134 $24,242 $81,681 $0 $0 $3,104 $316,633
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Schwartz, Kenneth A. Captain Paramedic
Emergency Operations $99,684 $67,942 $36,230 $31,058 $78,701 $0 $0 $2,901 $316,517
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Colon, James Captain
Emergency Operations $106,236 $76,970 $28,414 $24,242 $77,235 $0 $0 $3,140 $316,238
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Leonard, John D. Captain
Emergency Operations $106,824 $73,317 $23,997 $31,058 $75,442 $0 $0 $3,054 $313,691
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Jamison, Christina Fire Marshal
Fire Prevention $144,756 $0 $33,605 $30,267 $102,061 $0 $0 $2,680 $313,369
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Ray, Alex N. Captain Paramedic
Emergency Operations $106,236 $64,410 $34,462 $24,242 $80,760 $0 $0 $2,635 $312,745
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Anderson, Mark E. Captain
Emergency Operations $106,236 $71,387 $31,667 $24,242 $78,715 $0 $0 $94 $312,340
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Aguiar, Jonas C. Firefighter Paramedic
Emergency Operations $85,548 $114,767 $28,980 $12,032 $65,990 $0 $0 $3,418 $310,736
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Balch, Scott A. Firefighter Paramedic
Emergency Operations $85,548 $100,016 $30,696 $22,993 $66,724 $0 $0 $3,229 $309,206
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Armario, Donald L. Captain
Emergency Operations $106,236 $56,734 $30,994 $30,334 $78,715 $0 $0 $2,906 $305,919
Moraga-Orinda Fire Dist. Healy, Stephen B Division Chief(20 Years)
Safety $151,391 $53,146 $33,535 $15,706 $42,561 $5,925 $0 $3,488 $305,753
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Andersen, Thomas E. Captain
Emergency Operations $106,236 $51,357 $34,649 $30,334 $80,811 $0 $0 $2,054 $305,442
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Spani, Bruno C. Captain
Emergency Operations $106,236 $67,214 $26,907 $24,242 $76,424 $0 $0 $2,977 $304,000
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Dist. Cochran, Steven M. Captain Paramedic
Emergency Operations $106,236 $45,725 $39,922 $24,242 $83,835 $0 $0 $2,876 $302,836


Factchecker thinks the rest of the money paid comes from the tooth fairy. Get educated get real.


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Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Voter ****,

You sure make the rounds all over the internet, spreading your unique brand of spin. I sure hope you did not spend too much time on this one in particular.

I hope for your sake, someday, somehow, some sense of reality sets in with you, before your jealousy, infatuation and frustration consumes you. Then again they say ignorance is bliss.
Let's see where to start? You said San Ramon is even worse. Worse how? Have you bothered to read the San Ramon FD financials? LAFCO's municipal service reviews on the district? They are in fantastic financial shape-and no not all of their funding comes from public tax dollars (property taxes). Just like Orinda/Moraga the fire department runs ambulance/paramedics with service fees and also receives revenue from interest income. Talk about being misinformed. It is typical for benefits to make up ˝ of total compensation.

While you are at it you might want to get out of the '70's so that you come to realize the salaries stated are completely commensurate with the job titles and skill sets.
What you pay as a "taxpayer" has little to do with salaries or retirement benefits if you don't live in the district. There are many fire districts in contra costa county so you need to be a bit more specific. And speaking of specific you might want to re-examine your posting. A bunch of numbers without identification makes little sense, including your figures for the Fire Chief who currently is paid 1 dollar a year.
"The San Ramon Valley Fire District's chief quietly retired on Jan. 11 after six years with the department. At a district board meeting on Jan. 25, Richard Price announced that he would continue his duties as chief but with virtually no pay and no benefits.
According to reports, Price will officially be a volunteer and signed a contract with the district for a monthly salary of $1 for insurance purposes."

Voter, I am very aware of where the money comes from and exactly how much YOU contribute. …don't ever forget, the tooth fairy knows everything about you.
If you want to know who contributes what, you might want to sit down, put on your reading glasses, and become educated.
It doesn't get an more real that this;
Web Link


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Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

"The new tax asked for by Con Fire and the Board of Supervisors needs to be voted down just like East County."
A; Yeah, they really showed them! They now have ˝ of a fire department and the insurance rates are already on the rise…Oh wait, how did that hurt the department and the politicians?

"These politicians and union special interest will bleed us dry of every dollar we have unless we send them a message to stop giving away our savings."
A; Yep, they stand to gain…..nothing! That is some "message" the voters in East County sent them-now they are getting less than before and insurance rates will exceed the proposed tax. That was some real good financial decision making at the ballot box!

"Stop overpaying benefits and salaries with our money"
A; Wait, what? What is overpaying? In east county, it looks like firefighters made a whopping 50 grand a year, less 25 percent for mandatory contributions for benefits…we all agree that paying someone 38k a year is "overpaying" right?

"There are other avenues to rectify the fire district funding issue other than ask for more money. Just say NO. They have other options but fail to choose them because of the politics."
A; I am so glad there are other avenues to rectify this funding issue….can you remind us what they are again? Oh yeah, just say NO! That is brilliant. I am sure that worked in East County right?

"Look up Fire Departments Contra Costa and you will see why they want more money."
A; I looked them up, and all I could find was transcripts of how they want to continue to provide service to the communities they serve. Yep, that is an "evil and twisted" plan to extract more money from us.

"You will also see the pay is overwhelming, out of control, and ridiculous."
A; Ummmmm, I couldn't exactly find that part. It is pretty expensive to live and raise a family in Contra Costa County. So if paying an East Co firefighter 38k a year is ridiculous what should we pay them? Peanuts? Food stamps? Marbles?

"It has to stop before our children are mortgaged to debt and have no fire department but the retirees."
A; The "No" vote on the East County Measure pretty much took care of that. Well at least the no fire department part! It's a race to the bottom and the voters are winning!

"Here is what I think they are worth Maximum of $150K per year and when they retire after 40 years, they get what they have contributed to their 401Ks plus Medicare. Otherwise max out everyone's retirement benefits."
A; Well, since they are only making 50k in East Co., and 96k with Con Fire, are you suggesting maybe we should give them a raise? You really want them to retire after 40 years?….let's see how that works out- Hired at 28 years old, 40 years of service, so we will have 68 year old firefighters dropping like flies… Oh wait, most of them would have already gone out on tax free disability around 55-58. Great plan!


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Posted by Someoverpaid.Someunderpaid
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2012 at 8:41 am

Maybe Contra Costa doesn't have it as bad as other areas.......


July 10, 2012 Email Print Comment RSS

Pa. mayor cuts firefighters' pay to minimum wageFirefighters and other city union workers plan to file suit against Scranton mayor Share86 inShare

The Associated Press

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SCRANTON, Pa. — Unions representing workers in the northeastern Pennsylvania city of Scranton expect to file a federal lawsuit against the city after the mayor abruptly cut their pay to minimum wage.

The attorney for three unions, including firefighters and police, tells The Times-Tribune of Scranton he expects to file several legal actions, including a motion to hold Mayor Chris Doherty in contempt of court for violating a judge's order to pay full wages.

Doherty last week cut the pay for about 400 employees to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. He says it was the only way for the cash-strapped city to pay bills, and promises to restore pay once finances are stabilized.


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Posted by Tooth fairy
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm

John, you are so transparent. (You posted the same thing on the Brentwood Press).

You really need to get past your infatuation with things you don't quite understand.
While this is fairly old news, did you miss what the story was about or did you really just want to show us your delusional side once again?

In case you missed it the Mayor broke several laws and will be held accountable. He also did not show up to court and now is being charged with contempt. You can add that to the list.

"The attorney for three unions, including firefighters and police, tells The Times-Tribune of Scranton he expects to file several legal actions, including a motion to hold Mayor Chris Doherty in contempt of court for violating a judge's order to pay full wages."


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Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2012 at 9:27 am

Contra Costa Fire caps aid to East Contra Costa
Web Link

BRENTWOOD, Calif. (KGO) -- The next time firefighters in eastern Contra Costa County ask for mutual aid in a fire they may not get as much help as they need. There have been significant cuts in the county and since then, the calls for help from the Contra Costa Fire District have tripled. Now, the Contra Costa County says it can't keep up with the pace and residents in East County are feeling abandoned.

A grass fire threatened 11 homes in unincorporated Brentwood last Thursday. Contra Costa County sent four fire engines to help. Now, they say three engines is all they can send moving forward. "We need to make sure we protect our citizens who are paying, who are basically footing the bill for this," Contra Costa County Fire Chief Capt. Robert Marshall said. "So, we have to make sure that we can provide enough coverage for our citizens. Even though we're happy to help when we can, it's just that we can't always do that."
The chief of East County says he understands the decision, but is worried about what it will mean. "We are going to lose some houses and there are going to be some major injuries, and we're going to have some different outcomes," Eddie Washington told ABC7 News.
Voters in East County rejected a parcel tax that would have helped fund the fire district, so on July 1 officials closed half of the fire stations. There are now three engines and nine firefighters covering 249 square miles. In the first nine days of July, East County has asked Contra Costa County for 27 engines. County says it just cannot continue to help at that pace.
"Well, I guess they have to do what they've got to do. We've just got to be prepared ourselves I guess," one resident said.

"This is outrageous. As a citizen, I think it's outrageous. As a taxpayer, I don't care how much it costs. We need the fire departments fully staffed. We need emergency response times as quick as possible," another resident said.

"The amount of time it's going to take for us to get there is going to be significant which means there's more destruction," Marshall said.
Contra Costa County says its budget is also tight and its resources are thin so it has to use them wisely. They are going to have a parcel tax on the ballot in November and the firefighters there are hoping residents will see what happened in East County and vote to approve it.


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Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2012 at 12:52 am

5 Myths About Public Employee Pensions


There's an oft repeated myth being fed by many that claims the defined benefit pension plans available to most public employees are going bankrupt.

While a new report by the Pew Center for the States feeds those myths, Pew's research paints a false picture of pensions. Here are five oft-peddled myths about public pensions followed by the facts.

1. Pensions are going bankrupt.

The methods used to calculate a pension system's funding level are quite complicated and convoluted, which has enabled detractors to point to the funds in a few states -- Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Kentucky -- where funding shortfalls are notably higher.

Pew's "new" report relies on data from 2010, but that snapshot gives an inaccurate portrayal of the current fiscal health of pensions. In 2010, when the recovery was not as far along as it is today, 16 states were above the threshold that Pew says is necessary to qualify for good fiscal health. The number of states meeting that threshold today is probably much higher. For example, in Wisconsin the primary pension fund is 99.8 percent funded today. In the state of Washington, pensions are 119 percent funded today. In North Carolina, pensions are 100 percent funded today. Perhaps most important, pensions will continue to recover steadily as markets rebound.

2. States are facing an "unfunded liability" in excess of anywhere from $3 trillion to $757 billion.

The concept of an "unfunded liability" is misleading because pension benefits are paid out over decades. A mortgage represents a good analogy. Imagine newlyweds, both of whom work, buying a $300,000 home and putting $20,000 down. The $280,000 they owe represents an "unfunded liability," but like pensions, that money is not due all at once. It is due over 30 years, under the terms of a typical loan agreement.

Opponents of public employee pensions have skillfully portrayed pension liabilities as a bill that is due today. If homeowners had to pay the full cost of their home at the time of purchase, 99 percent of us would be renting. But homeowners don't have to pay for the homes all at once, so it's very misleading to portray pension funds in that light because pensions are paid to retirees over many decades.

3. States can no longer afford to pay benefits.

Payments to pension systems account for less than three percent of state budgets. Most of the funds in pension plans are not even provided by taxpayers -- two-thirds of all pension assets are contributed by employees or earned on investments.

Where pensions are underfunded, it's overwhelmingly because of the recession and because states took "pension holidays," which means politicians declined to make their state or locality's annual contribution -- breaking a promise to the public servants of that state and in a bad faith effort as the fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars. Had they simply honored their commitments when times were good, virtually no state pension system would have unfunded pension liabilities that raise concerns.

This approach has worked for opponents of pensions because it allows them to shift blame to workers, but it does not change the fact that it advocates allowing states to ignore their responsibility to the people who perform the work to protect the public, teach our children and keep the state providing many other valuable services to its citizens.

4. Public employee benefits are overly generous.

Since pensions are now virtually non-existent in the private sector, and because the recession decimated the nest eggs of everyone with money in the stock market, opponents of defined benefit pensions have gained traction with this argument by creating and fostering pension envy.

The story that isn't told is that the pensions public employees receive, in most cases, are the only source of income those workers receive in retirement since most are not allowed to collect Social Security. And the median benefit of those receiving a pension paid by a public employer is $23,407, according to the National Institute for Retirement Security.

The hope is that their pension gives the average public worker the ability to pay their basic bills, but they definitely aren't getting rich in their old age.

CEO pay provides a better example of overly generous pay. Apple CEO Tim Cook earned $900,000 in pay and performance benefits in 2011 and received restricted stock worth $376 million that vests in 2016 and 2021. CEOs of the S&P 500 Index companies earned 380 times the salary of an average worker in 2011, according to the AFL-CIO's Executive Paywatch study.

5. We can fix the pension system by converting to 401(k)-style defined contribution plans.

There is a well-financed effort to force 401(k) plans as the solution because Wall Street firms stand to earn billions of dollars in fees if pensions are converted to 401(k)s.

But the momentum of that effort is dwindling because 401(k)s have provided investors with a paltry return over time. Think about what has happened to your own 401(k) since 2008 and whether the money in that account would be enough to sustain you in retirement.

A 60-year-old who worked for 30 years has an average 401(k) account balance of $172,555, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute. That will provide retirement income of only $575.18 per month. It would take a 401(k) account balance of $1,000,000 to provide $40,000 annually over one's lifetime. To achieve a $1,000,000 account balance, you would need to contribute $1,000 a month every month for 30 years and earn a 6 percent return [after fees]. With an estimated 20 million Americans unemployed or underemployed and with real wages stagnant for decades -- average hourly earnings for all private-sector production and nonsupervisory workers across the economy have risen just 5.3% to $19.72 since 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- those who work for a living in this country over the past 30 years, not many have $1,000 to save every month after paying their bills.

The real retirement crisis is not in the public sector. It is in the private sector. The average 401(k) balance today is just $71,500, according to Fidelity Investments. Americans whose retirement security relies on Social Security supplemented by such small balances in 401(k)s must consider how they will avoid falling into poverty in their retirement years and states will need to figure out how they will provide welfare to those who do.

401(k)s were always intended to supplement -- not replace -- one's retirement income. About 10,000 Americans a day are turning 65 years old, according to the Pew Center for the States. While Wall Street's 401(k) plans have done nothing to help retirees enjoy their golden years, defined benefit plans are the best way to support retirees and allow them to continue to contribute to their local economies.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Voter8024
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Fatchecker is probably a firefighter, politician, or union representative trying to defend the overzealous costs that have been provided here. The comment that San Ramon is in great shape financially is overstated. Check out the unfunded liability of the District. Money that is not paid upfront is a debt. The entire cost of compensation to all public employees is provided by the taxpayer. If the people within the San Ramon Fire District want to compensate a firefighter four hundred thousand dollars a year then so be it. I bet that many have no idea one individual consumes so much of a tax dollar.
Lastly for factchecker to be believable real documentation to back the accusations that the CC Times is providing incorrect information with names attached should be supplied. This is where FC is just another mouth with no credibility.
I am sure that one of those employees listed would have filed court papers against the Times if the information was wrong. I seriously do not think the Times dream up the numbers either. This is where FC is a fool and unbelievable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Factchecker
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm

@ Voter 8024,

I hope you didn't spend much time on your retort. As usual you spent all of your effort attacking and trying to figure out the messenger instead of dealing with the facts. It is obvious you have no idea what you are even talking about.

Pity.


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