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City Council Cuts Firefighter Salaries, Benefits

The San Carlos City Council discussed firefighters' salaries and benefits at Monday nights' meeting.

The San Carlos City Council voted 4-1 to approve the salary and benefits for firefighters with amendments to include a change to the retirement formula from 2 percent at 50 formula to 2 percent at 55 formula, amend new employees' first year vacation accrual to receive one week of vacation and one week of sick leave, and amend the pay schedule to be paid twice a month. Councilmember Bob Grassilli voted no.

As they push forward to build a new hybrid fire department with Redwood City, the council made several changes to staff's recommended resolution.

New firefighters will incur a 5 percent salary reduction as the $91,989 they make as part of the Belmont-San Carlos Joint Power’s Agreement will be cut to $87,390, according to city officials.

 “It’s a 5 percent reduction but it is market rate,” said Mayor Omar Ahmad. “I need to be able to say that we’re not going to cut this again next year.”

 Ahmad was careful to reiterate the reason for the cut was to provide a sustainable financial model that would end the continuous budget cutting the city has endured for years now.

 The approval was made by the council after several amendments were made to the resolution.

 The retirement formula was changed from the original 2 percent at 50 formula to 2 percent at 55. Councilmember Matt Grocott made the motion, making the argument that the city should not be encouraging retirement at such an early age.

 The council also amended the sick leave formula, changing it so new, first year fire fighters will receive one-week vacation and one week sick leave, a vote that passed 3-2 with Grassilli and Royce being the no votes.

 Bi-monthly pay was also unanimously added by the council, making it possible for firefighters to be paid twice a month versus once per month.

 Council members Bob Grassilli and Matt Grocott both moved to change the sleep exemption provisions and wanted to pay overtime on working holidays, but both motions failed.

 The vote on the Resolution, as amended to include a change to the retirement formula from 2 percent at 50 formula to 2 percent at 55 formula, amend new employees' first year vacation accrual to receive one week of vacation and one week of sick leave, and amend the pay schedule to be paid twice a month - either 24 or 26 times per year, explained City Clerk Christine Boland.

Administrator Rebecca Mendenhall told staff benefits would be reduced approximately 5-10 percent, but reminded the city council these numbers were starting off points so the city could begin the process of hiring new firefighters.

“What we’re doing right now, we’re putting the stake in the ground,” said Council member Randy Royce.  “The object here is quality service at a competitive price.”

These salary and benefit figures may not apply to firefighters with years of experience in the Belmont-San Carlos JPA, should the city decide to rehire fire fighters that operated in Belmont-San Carlos.

 On April 25, the San Carlos City Council directed staff to begin negotiations with Redwood City to create a hybrid fire department model. As part of the deal, Redwood City will supply management along with a fire chief, deputy fire chief and battalion chiefs while San Carlos will be responsible for hiring 6 fire captains, 1 fire inspector and 15 fire fighters.

 “This is an attempt at coming up with something sustainable, long term,” said City Manager Jeff Maltbie.

pat bell May 10, 2011 at 04:27 PM
A sustainable, long-term plan for fire service is an admirable goal. It is also a goal that could have been met within the BSCFD JPA. Unfortunately, Randy Royce, Omar Ahmad, and Andy Klein were determined to kill that possibility and it was never pursued. So now we're going to pay many millions of dollars to get out of that JPA and go with this goofy hybrid plan. The fact that Brian Moura is the "project manager" doesn't help. His obvious prejudices shape what is presented to the council, which is dominated by the three who hate Belmont almost as much as they hate the unions. Both Omar and Andy say they are Democrats, but in my many decades as a Democrat I don't remember union-busting as part of the Democratic Party's philosophy. This whole thing is not only stupid, but fiscally irresponsible.

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