Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Greedy Bastards

The average firefighter in New Orleans makes over $75,000 per year, and the union has the nerve to demand a pay raise. I'm not making that up, the city is down to about 650 firefighters (the number may be smaller), and The Picayune's Frank Donze tells us that:
Those raises would add at least $10 million to the $50 million the city now spends annually on firefighter salaries. The Nagin administration wants to settle that matter before the city grants any department-wide raises.

Do the math. I've long thought that there's the Frank Donze who drinks the Kool-Aid during the week and the insightful Frank Donze who usually writes the Saturday New Orleans Politics column. It seems that the Kool-Aid drinker has been listening the doctor of education uncritically.

I know, it could have been an excusable mistake; total payroll costs for a department would be higher than the combined salaries of a department. I've heard that the total payroll cost of an employee is about twice his salary (I've found multiplier estimates ranging from 1.35 to 2.5), but I don't know what it usually averages. Like the mayor's CAO I'm no management expert. Still that $50M figure seemed suspiciously high. As a matter of fact, as far as I ca tell, total expenditures for the fire department went from $50M in the 2005 budget to $40M in the 2006 budget. Google city of new orleans operating budget and click on the powerpoint link about three from the top.

I had hoped to have finished up on the topic by now, but I had computer problems last night and blogger was down earlier. I don't expect most people to care about the pay raise issue as much as I do, but everyone should care about the way it's been handled. If the mayor continually throws out numbers that a moment's thought should tell you won't stand a second glance, somebody should call him on it. The Times Picayune has started doing a much better job of it, but the city council seems to really believe that the mayor knows how to run the city like a business. He's running it like a education department, a dysfunctional education department at that. If they ignore the obvious questions on any issue, it doesn't give me any confidence in their ability to handle the really important issues.

You hit the nail on the head! This has been going on for years, with the firefighters complaining they don't make enough (while working lucrative part time jobs while on the clock not fighting fires). When in fact they are paid near the top of the country relative to the cost of living in the area. On the other hand the cops (who have no time to work any other job while on the clock) are very near the bottom in the USA relative to the local cost of living. Greedy bastards indeed!
Good research.

Clearly, the TP reporter failed do thoroughly investigate the issue of firefighter salaries -- or to report the issue thoroughly.

I wonder if the word "firefighter" includes support personnel (if they exist).

The base salary was listed at $21,000 in an earlier TP article, so something definitely has to give.

I'm not prepared to call the fire department greedy. There are certainly far easier and less risky jobs to do if one were greedy.

I also wonder why, if salaries are so high, there aren't people waiting in line to get a job as a firefighter.
And what portion of a firefighter's salary, and the budget, is overtime?
I was being sarcastic in an effort to make a point about that ridiculous $50M figure and that the fact that all the mayor's estimates are taken at face value. There's simply no way that the city spends that much on the salaries for 600-650 firefighters. i thought it might make sense for the total employee costs for the whole department, but that still sounded too high.

Clarkt, I gather that you're either a cop or have friends or family members who are. I agree that the police are the municipal employees most deserving of a pay raise, but I find it interesting that the mayor didn't push for civilian employee raises until the firefighters were included. Then he modified the pay plan in a way that was calculated to anger the firefighters. I'm extremely worried that the council didn't say no to the mayor and only increase police and fire pay, instead they increased the total cost to try to keep everybody happy. Of course that plan won't work. In every city in the country if police pay increases more than fire, or vice versa, you have problems. I don't know how firefighter pay here compares to other places, it's amazingly difficult to find straightforward info--the city's web site compares a one vet in N.O. to a just signed rookie in Atlanta for instance. After layoffs that mainly affected the lowest paid employees, I sure can't see giving civilian employees the same raise as cops.
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