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SB City and County Firemen Pensions
updated: Apr 16, 2012, 8:34 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

Today was surprised when a friend bandied about SB City and County fireman's pensions. Is it true their retirements are over $125K annually, with full medical benefits? Does this impact county, city or state taxes/funding? What are some perspectives about the recent "news" about these retirements?

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 271808 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 08:49 AM

Leave the firemen alone. Theyre one of the few city employees that actually deserve it. Worry about someone else.


 COMMENT 271809 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 08:49 AM

I don't know that it's "recent" "news" - firefighter wages and pensions are publicly available. I believe their pensions are based on the highest amount they earned and the amount of time worked. Personally, I am all for giving firefighters great pensions. They do tough, dangerous work as long as they're physically able.


 COMMENT 271810 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 08:49 AM

Firemen's pensions are the same as they have been for the past 50 years.

My questions to the OP are...

1. Are you new to Edhat? Pensions for fire/police have been talked about for years on this website.
2. If not, then you have obviously heard about these pensions before, so why do you find it necessary to fan the flames...are you a disgruntled employee whose job has no retirement security?
3. If so, why don't you find a job that has a better retirement plan instead of whining about others' plans?


 COMMENT 271818 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 09:04 AM

The majority of pension funds come from monies made off the stock market. They contribute a portion, the City contributes a portion, and the large bulk of it comes from profits from the stock market.

And should you really care? Is $125k really just the minimum someone needs to surive in this town? Firefighters pay taxes too and as far as I am concerned they deserve every penny they get for the years of service they have done.

I agree 810!


 COMMENT 271822 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 09:10 AM

LOL! Yeha right,, The City Firefighter I know who retired 5 years ago (@ 58 year old) pays $780.00 a month for an HMO insurance policy that he and his wife are on... I don't know how much $ he is making on his pension...but is IS NOT more than $70K- He works at a car dealer driving customers home in the courtesy van...
There is REALITY and FACT, not Lanny's fiction.


 COMMENT 271839 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 09:47 AM

And before it comes up, SB city police do not get medical benefits upon retiring. I'm married to a retired cop and he's on my work benefit plan, of which I pay a portion. (Not complaining, just trying to debunk that rumor as well!) Happy Monday!


 COMMENT 271847 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 10:11 AM

Just to set the record straight......fire fighters and police NEVER get FREE medical...they pay for the "company" insurance just like everyone else.

And when they retire they DO get medical benefits...what they get is the OPTION to purchase the same plan they paid for when they were working, at the discount rates negotiated between the city/county and the insurer.

Taking 822's example of a $780/mo policy for husband and wife....that same HMO plan would cost well over $1000 per month if purchased separately.


 COMMENT 271852 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 10:35 AM

The City will claim it is attracting good workers to commute or live in this expensive area with higher wages and benefits. The City employee is paying the share of their pension that is above the previous 2@55 (or 2@50 previously for fire/pollice) rate and the City stops paying for them after they retire.

But compared to a private sector worker, there is the benefit of having a much better than average steady job, not worrying about your job going overseas. I think that based on today's economy that has been wrecked by Wall Street and their puppet congress, ...government workers, & especially our favored fire/police employees, are living pretty sweet. The pension systems are run better than SS, but still get hit by Wall Street shenanigans. Until Wall Street gets under control and congress begins to work for our country better, finances will be tight and the private sector will be jealous of government pensions.


 COMMENT 271857 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 11:11 AM

I like the Mayor of the City of Santa Barbaras idea. Make your full contribution allowed by law. PS stopping the rigging of schedules from constantly getting overtime may help too. For the record I don't think that is a crazy amount of money to live on in this town after working a long career in the public sector. Good morning and good luck!


 COMMENT 271860 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 11:23 AM

They deserve every cent of it for putting their lives on the line.


 COMMENT 271863 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 11:37 AM

@860 - And others who make the specious argument that they deserve because they put their lives on the line.

That is a given and well-known by all who apply for the job.

They also get to spend 90% of their working lives cooking spaghetti for their station-mates, sitting in the recliners watching tv and jogging and exercising.

And, a generous pension to boot. Nice work if you can get it.

That said, I'm still grateful to those who serve - but just don't tug at my emotions by saying "they deserve it because they put their lives on the line."


 COMMENT 271869P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 11:47 AM

I think the outrage should be directed at the mayor and city council members who can collect a pension after just 4 years on the council.


 COMMENT 271873 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 11:55 AM

818- You can live in this town for a whole lot less than $125k a year. I do! If you can't, perhaps you're spending frivolously.

pension padding is a sad reality in many fields, I think last minute promotions to increase income for years and years is just wrong, whatever you do for a living.


 COMMENT 271876P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 12:00 PM

OP here - I'm all for the retired firemen. My father was a retired fireman in the Midwest. My posting was to put a blanket on the (Tea Party line?) rumors that firemen have spectacular retirements.


 COMMENT 271885P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 12:16 PM

That figure of $125,000 must be for someone who was a battalion chief or chief. I don't think fire captains or engineers make that kind of money when they are working. Their retirement pay is based on their highest year of pay X a certain percentage per each year of service. If they earned $100, 000 and worked 30 years, they would get 3% per year or $90,000. A few years back, they were getting 2.5% per year, so only recent retirees get that kind of pension. There is talk about rolling the pension amount back for new hires.


 COMMENT 271893P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 12:30 PM

Wish the OP had provided us a link to the actual data, rather than posting hearsay.


 COMMENT 271894 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 12:31 PM

@873 - Good points, especially pension padding in many fields. Reform on that front very much needed unless we can miraculously breed 'greed' out of the human species.

Speaking of greed - look only to the city of Bell as the poster child for municipal greed run amok when the fox minds the chicken coop!


 COMMENT 271895 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 12:32 PM

Good thing we spend more money on retired city employees then we do on real ones. At this rate, nobody will be working for the city in 10 years. Guess that's a good thing.


 COMMENT 271896 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 12:33 PM

pensions are all but gone in the private sector and the writing is on the wall in the public sector. It's just not sustainable.

I'm all for arguing that certain people are worthy of lifelong payments (e.g. firefighters, veterans, etc) but to have all public employees (e.g. admin, teachers, DMV workers, etc) is proving to not be sustainable. It's hard to argue this fact. Look what it's done to our schools - perfect example.


 COMMENT 271902 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 12:42 PM

You can go to the State Controllers website and see what they made in 2010. The chief made $193,000 and the majority of the firemen made over $100.000.


 COMMENT 271922 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 01:28 PM

It's all a shell game that's ready to go bust.


 COMMENT 271924 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 01:34 PM

I work for the Fire Department. I love these posts. 90% of you have no idea what you are talking about. Yes Captains can retire at over $110k per year. Most of them retain their medic license for a medic stipend even though they will never run a medical call. Often, towards retirement, they will spend their last two years in an office position for another paid incentive since their retirement is based on their highest annual salary. 822, have no idea what your friends story is. If they've worked long enough for 100% there is no reason they are not sitting pretty. You are not getting their whole story. 808- I love you. You are the reason I get to work ten days a month and make over $100k/year. Thank you! BTW, my last boss (Captain) retired at 55, 100% $115/year for the rest of his life. SBCF.


 COMMENT 271927P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 01:43 PM

If it is an anonymous rant, it must be true!


 COMMENT 271948 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 02:52 PM

Max mo. salaries, # of employees :
Fire Battalion Chief $11,648.78 (~5 positions)
Fire Captain $8,134.36 (~31 positions)
Fire Chief $15,097.85 (1 position)
Fire Engineer $7,038.98 (~33 positions)
Firefighter $6,213.83 (~37 positions)

So Fire Captain, retiring 25yrs, age 50, x 3% safety emp pension factor (3@50), monthly pension is $8134 x .03 x 25yr = $6100/mo x 12mo = $73200/year. We are grateful for their good service, but retire age and multiplication factor are better than for regular emp (2.7@55), who we also appreciate for dealing with daily politics of city functions and having the education that many private sector workers cannot match. However, the County workers are at a lower salary and retirement rate yet (2@57), and social security starts minimally after age 62. City of SB workers are not paying into SS, so that is a factor, and if they get it, the pension knocks SS back down.


 COMMENT 271956P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 03:10 PM

We and the Third World are meeting somewhere in the middle. Scooter anyone?


 COMMENT 271966 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 03:55 PM

I strongly urge all of you to read Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point public employee pension reform plan. It's online, just search for it. It will make the system far more sustainable. It is currently not so.


 COMMENT 271996 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 05:15 PM

@924 This a 822 and it is true, He is paying almost $800 in health insurance for he and his wife. It is also true that he retired from City Fire 5 years ago and is making less than $70K per year. It is also true that he works as a shuttle driver for a car dealership... I would give his name, but I'm sure he would perfer his privacy as you do as well.


 COMMENT 272004 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 05:30 PM

COMMENT 271996 ...Seriously, this guy is only making $70,000 from my tax dollars for the rest of his life and has to pay $800 a month in health insurance when I pay $675 as a single person and have no retirement except what I save myself.
Truly heart breaking.


 COMMENT 272010 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 05:56 PM

At 822, I apologize. I do not doubt what you are saying. However, If he/sh is "only" making $70k in retirement, it is because he/she did not work long enought to earn 90+ percent. @948. you are obviously leaving out a HUGE factor: Overtime. My starting salary out of the academy first year was $79k. Of the 8 people in my academy class, 6 of them were 22 or younger. All local SB boys. At the current rate, they will easily retire at 100%. When talking about fire and police, you can not discuss salary without taking overtime into consideration. Especially firefighters who, for the city work two days and have five days off, and the county, where they work 10 days a month. Plenty of time to pick up over time shifts.
in the summer when they get called out on strike teams, they are on the clock 24/7 for 14 days, 21 days for officers. Almost all overtime. Sorry if you dont want to hear it. It is the truth.


 COMMENT 272025 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 06:57 PM

Overtime in NOT PERS-able or don't you know that as the "firefighter" you say you are...? Your retirement is based on your time on the job and your BASE salary. After 30 years of service it doesn't change your % and remains flat (on your base pay). OT has NOTHING to do with your retirement. Get your facts straight.


 COMMENT 272027 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 07:05 PM

COMMENT 272010 Thank you. If you look at the State controller website and you see the minimum and maximum wages (which I am sure most of the people don't make the max) , you will see that the fire department W2's pretty much all exceed the max income which in my opinion equates to overtime pay. We are talking about alot of money. We are talking about $20,000 per year for one person and much more for alot of people . Look for yourselves. Everyone can attack me on this. that's OK
Let us not forget about as stated on Edat. Noozhawk, etc.
Santa Barbara Fire Department Accrues $850,000 in Overtime Costs in May, 2011.

No fires just a regular season in 2010.


 COMMENT 272033 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 07:20 PM

Commercial divers make a ton of money without college, little training, and have a very high risk job. Without them, a lot of people would be hurting for their gasoline. But they don't generally don't leave with pension/medical benefits. Tough to say what is really right or not.

I respect firemen, police officers, anyone who really protect us. But at the same time, couldn't the same be said for a criminal defense attorney when YOU are the one with your life on the line (given you are innocent)? Not 100% sure on this, so correct me if I'm wrong, but my assumption is that EMT's don't make as much as firefighters, and a lot of time, firefighters act as first responders for incidents that don't involve burning buildings.

But, its not black and white like many are making it out to be.


 INQUIRING MIND agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 07:28 PM

Lots of defensive responses here. I haven't seen all the previous discussions on this subject. And I don't see any answers to the question. I'm retired from a private company from a middle management position, and I my pension is less than half of the $70k, and whadda ya know? Our medical insurance is about the same as the $780 cited. I'm all for equitable pensions for our public servants, but it seems we are over-compensating a tad.


 COMMENT 272039 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-16 08:05 PM

California State Controller John Chiang has an exhaustive list of all the State's Govt. employee compensation....here is Santa Barbara County Fire specific:




 COMMENT 272070P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 07:05 AM

I don't think it's a question of whether someone "deserves" the money or not. The only question is "is there enough money to pay what has been promised?"

It's a simple question with a simple answer "NO"

No business would decide its payroll based on anything else


 ARCHIE agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 07:29 AM

852: How can a job that involves risking one's own life on a regular basis be compared to "private sector worker".


 COMMENT 272150 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 09:27 AM

The vast majority of firefighters' calls are medical emergencies. (Just listen to a FD scanner for a period of time to verify that.) And many firefighters have second (outside) jobs since they have a lot of free time both on & off duty.

When there are openings for FD positions, the line for the job is long because there are a lot of positives about those positions. If supply & demand prevailed we would probably be able to pay less salary & benefits. But the unions have been able to negotiate good contracts.

So we need to honor the contracts or negotiate something else if we can't afford the ones in force now. And I agree that we have gotten ourselves into a position that we can no longer afford.


 COMMENT 272153P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 09:33 AM

I'm having trouble with the people who say things along the lines of "that's much more than I'm making, so they shouldn't get it". Instead of spending your time/energy to make sure others are forced to get crappy retirement benefits, why not spend your time/energy to make sure YOU get BETTER benefits?


 COMMENT 272177P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 10:12 AM

More Lannitorial Truthiness.


 COMMENT 272179 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 10:22 AM

Pasta, chillin', games...they put their lives on the line but so does everyone else. Nurses are in the line of aids, hepatitis, injuries. Doctors are in the line of infections and being sued. Bank tellers for robberies :more robberies in SB than fires? And so on. Clean the slate of Firefighters like teachers every year and see the line around the block to hire. Supply and demand. Many are in line for the retirement package and the food. Some of those guys can actually cook!


 COMMENT 272186 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 10:43 AM

Hi, 153, the idea is to consider the entire system. It's not about me or you finding a job that gives better benefits. It's about where the money to support these rich benefits programs comes from. The reason municipalities and school districts are struggling isn't because of the $9/hour lifeguard cost for the summer, or the art supplies, it's due to the weight of the pension commitment these systems have signed up for. Do you realize who pays for this through taxes and quality of service? We all do!


 COMMENT 272189 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 10:55 AM

Leave the Firefighters alone. I hope you never need them but if you do you will think twice about your comments. We LOVE LOVE LOVE our Firefighters at Station #30.


 COMMENT 272195 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 11:15 AM

Bet some of you nay-sayers weren't complaing about fire/police during Zaca, Gap, Tea, and Jesusita fires.. or did you forget about those already? I'm pretty sure most of you weren't evacuating schools, nursing homes, families, etc. I'm pretty sure most of you don't work 12+ hour shifts. I'm also pretty sure you weren't battling the fires, trying to save people and property. That's not even counting the kind of things they do on a daily basis. It's a known fact that first responders have higher rates of health issues-heart problems, lung problems, etc due directly to their line of work. They do their jobs to save your lives and property, often without thanks and here you are complaining. It's a shame.


 COMMENT 272394P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-17 08:07 PM

Yes yes yes, we all love and appreciate our firefighters and police, especially when there is a crisis. IT'S NOT ABOUT THAT!!! Get it through your heads: There is not enough money to pay these salaries and benefits! I love my wife and think she's worth a million dollars a year, but I simply could not and will not pay her that much! Yes, I complained bitterly during the big fires a few years ago, even as my house burned, of the outrageous costs being incurred. I knew the bill would come due. I also knew when I built in Mission Cyn that it was highly likely there would be a fire or flood and that the property was indefensible.
Please wrap your heads around the fact that there is not enough money to pay these outrageous benefits and some salaries. There is no money...zip...zilch...zero....you spent it all years ago. Now we as a community are borrowing every dollar we "gift" to these workers and we are borrowing it from our grandchildren. STOP THE MADNESS!!!


 COMMENT 272418 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-18 07:28 AM

Ummmm isn't retirement pension a perq meant to attract, incentivize, and reward? The two questions seem to be: in this day and age, what is necessary to attract and retain qualified personnel(many hungry and hurting folks would love just have paycheck), and can we afford it. Our society is living on borrowed money and time; really makes no difference in the big picture. I just want to know that the few ESSENTIAL gov't services are there when needed. Thank you emergency responders for your service.


 COMMENT 272425P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-04-18 07:40 AM

No, it is not true, but how can we make people angry if we do not fabricate lies?


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