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State and local government workers now rake in an average $39.50 an hour in wages and fringes, compared with a mere $26.09 an hour in the private sector, according to 2007 numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The gap rose $1.02 an hour last year and $2.45 an hour over the last three years. The publication USA Today put together the figures from BLS data. Greatly because of global competition, companies have cut pension benefits and asked employees to pay a larger share of healthcare costs, but few governments have made similar moves.

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Comments

JohnnyVegas Feb. 5, 2008 @ 4:40 p.m.

I am telling you right now, if we have a stock market meltdown that will be it, the final straw that broke the camels back,

There will be NO OTHER choice but bankruptcy, and not just us, but probably every gov municipality in this state.

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Anon92107 Feb. 4, 2008 @ 12:23 p.m.

Bush’s tax cuts for the rich have proven once again that there is no such thing as “trickle down” when in reality it is “suck up” so today the middle class private sector is being devastated.

And what you have really reported is the fact that federal, state and local government workers will be the last of the American middle class, as the old time 20th century private sector middle class becomes an extinct species.

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JohnnyVegas Feb. 4, 2008 @ 12:38 p.m.

I agree with #1 above about the so called "trickle down" baloney. It is a sham.

But I would NOT call gov workers middle class oday, especially PD and FD, where they are paid in the top 3% of income earners in the nation (counting pay+ healthcare+ benefits+ OT+ pensions)

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JF Feb. 4, 2008 @ 2:04 p.m.

Don, I might refer you to "The City of San Diego Fire Classification Compensation and Benefits Survey Results" at: http://www.sdfire.org/items/Survey_report_final_020807.pdf

You'll see the following percentiles for top step SDFD employees with families. Firefighter II - 26% Engineer - 36% Captain - 36% Battalion Chief - 10%

Odd that the mayor told the UT, "Firefighters are in the middle range of pay." More like the bottom third.

Note that the mayor chose to include lower paid municipalities such as Houston and Phoenix, but ignored California cities such as San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland.

Many of your comments include the phrase, "...is worth looking in to." So how about it? Why don't you do an analysis of the Corbett settlement, or firefighter cancer rates, or any of the other topics that you've said "is worth looking in to."

How about doing an impartial study of SDFD pay and benefits and comparing it to the ten largest (largest population, not highest paid) cities in California?

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paul Feb. 4, 2008 @ 11:26 p.m.

JF,

There are a lot of ways to look at and massage the numbers. I pointed out the numbers from the study I did because they showed a vastly different picture than the numbers you were presenting. The study also talks about base pay, not real pay, which includes opportunities for copious overtime. It talks about pension contributions, but not pension benefits. At what age are you eligible and what is your multiplier? These things are very important in any comparison, but I did not see them in this study. The study also implies that a disproportionate percentage of San Diego fire fighters are at the very high end of the salary scale. It doesn't matter what the relative payscales are for different positions are if San Diego is top heavy. I don't know whether it is, but that would be very important to know in any accurate comparison.

Another consideration is just what does it mean to make the median salary in a field where everybody is overpaid? Does anybody feel sorry for the guy at the end of the Padres bench who is only making the league minimum of over $300K? We should all cry for him, right? After all, nobody makes less than him so he would be in the bottom 0% according to this study.

I am not necessarily against the firefighters current pay or against the raise they are currently seeking. I am saying that it is virtually meaningless to use this study to cry poverty.

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Anon92107 Feb. 5, 2008 @ 3:46 a.m.

JF, I most strongly believe that anyone who is responsible for protecting and saving the lives and property of my family and community, especially at hellaciously increasing risks to their own lives because of corruption of Mayor Sanders, Dumanis, judges et al, should be among the highest paid people in the community.

The #1 fact of life in America today is that there are no better Americans than our military, police, firefighters and anyone else who protect and save our lives while risking their own.

Without them we are a third world country, which is where American politicians have us headed today.

VOTE out all incumbents and reboot American Democracy TODAY!

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JohnnyVegas Feb. 5, 2008 @ 8:48 a.m.

Poster #12-Paul,

I like you!

...."copious overtime."...boy did you hit the home run with that statement!

I am saying that it is virtually meaningless to use this study to cry poverty.<<<

CA FF's are receiving a median COMPENSATION of around $200K per year (in CA). That is in the top 1-3% of income earners nationwide. They need no, or very little, skills/experience prior to joing the FD or enteringthe Fire Academy-it is mostly OTJ (on the job training).

They are very well compensated.

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Anonymous Feb. 4, 2008 @ 2:20 p.m.

People that join the FD and PD do it for one big reason now, retirement and medical benefits. Public service is not their priority, their nest egg is. I know of a guy that joined the SD Sheriff as a probation officer because he can work 5 years and buy 5 years of retirement. That way he gets 10 years of retirement benefits for working 5 years. What a deal! Who in private enterprise offers that?

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JF Feb. 4, 2008 @ 9:33 p.m.

Paul, That's before benefits. When you add in the cost of retirement and health care, you get the lower numbers since we pay so much more. Look at page 45 for the overall percentile rankings.

And since you brought up stuff from further in the rankings - Pay raises for 2007 -- not included in this report since they were after the report came out: San Diego - 0% As in ZERO (Also 0% for 2005 and 2006) Carlsbad - 4.25% Encinitas - 5.1% (Also 5.1% for 2008 and 2009) Vista - 5% (Also 5% for 2008) Anaheim - 5% (Also 6% for 2008) Long Beach - 6% Murrieta - 6% Sacramento - 5% (Also 5% for 2008) LA County - 7% (Plus 3% for 2008)

Get the point? So where do you suppose that leaves us now, a year later? Think the mayor will fund another study?

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JF Feb. 5, 2008 @ 6:54 a.m.

Paul, Excellent commentary. You're absolutely correct in your observations. The multiplier for SDFD is 3% @ 50. It's basically the same for all of the agencies listed. The only reason that it is now 3% @ 50 (vs. the former 2.5% @50 to 2.9999% @ 55) is that the city lost a lawsuit (Corbett vs SDCERS) and settled. The alternative was to count OT towards retirement.

The point of the study is not to cry poverty, but rather as a comparison to similar departments. Mayor Sanders keeps stating that he wants to use "the market" to set wages, so he commissioned this study to look at "the market". That's why I pointed out the usage of far away places rather than California cities. That's not a fair comparison.

I believe that when you talk about folks at the "high end of the scale", you're talking about the statement in the report that most firefighters are top step Firefighter II's. That's really not all that hard to achieve. You need to be a firefighter for a year to achieve Firefighter II and then several more years to become top step. Beyond that, you're either frozen or promote. San Diego maintains fully staffed apparatus, so our Captain to employee ratio is higher than most other cities in the comparison.

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Anon92107 Feb. 5, 2008 @ 1:34 p.m.

AP REALITY CHECK HEADLINE JUST REPORTED:

"Stocks plunge amid bad service sector report" Activity accounts for two-thirds of economy, first contraction in four years http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3683270/

Heads Up Folks, with headlines like this one you might ask yourselves who is going to make up for the increasing losses in tax revenue that pay for our government corruption!?

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Don Bauder Feb. 4, 2008 @ 2:29 p.m.

Response to post #4: Such a caper -- working 5 years and purchasing 5 more -- and then retiring is illegal in the City, although it has been done regularly, and Aguirre is trying to stop it. I don't know about the sheriff's department. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 4, 2008 @ 2:26 p.m.

Response to post #3: It depends what universe was used in calculating those percentiles. Private and public sector? One or the other? Nation? California? Urban or inland California? Etc. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 4, 2008 @ 2:23 p.m.

Response to post #2: Trickle down is a myth and always has been. Look at today: the money doesn't trickle down -- it remains with the top 1 percent and top 1/10th of 1 percent.Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 4, 2008 @ 2:21 p.m.

Response to post #1: You make good points. The most disgraceful and societally deleterious phenomenon is pay of the CEOs and Wall Street moguls. The former average $14 million a year (top 500) and the latter above $50 million a year, with top private equity/hedge fund people raking in more than a billion dollars a year. Private sector middle class pay lags because the way the nabobs get more money is by destroying domestic jobs and shipping them overseas. Government workers do better in part because very few government jobs can be sent overseas. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Feb. 4, 2008 @ 2:51 p.m.

Don, a couple of comments: Those percentiles were calculated by the mayor's consultant. So I wouldn't figure that they'd favor the employee, would you? I think there's a darn good reason that the mayor included low paying cities not in this region, but left out higher paying cities that are in this region. I think if you compared SD to the ten largest cities in CA, we'd end up even closer to the bottom.

Can you provide names of people who have worked 5 years, bought five years and then retired? Maybe positions? Or is that just hearsay?

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paul Feb. 4, 2008 @ 7:11 p.m.

JF,

Also from that report:

"Based on these "adjustments", 6 of the 10 San Diego fire classifications are above the median for both the minimum and maximum pay. With the exception of Fire Fighter I, the majority of San Diego's employees are at or near the maximum pay scale based on tenure. With this understanding areas to note are:

The majority of San Diego's fire employees are Fire Fighter IIs at maximum salary which ranks at the 58th percentile.

Engineer and Captain when combined become the majority of San Diego's fire employees and are ranked at the 73rd percentile for maximum salary.

Fire Fighter IIs that receive paramedic pay rank at the 89th percentile for maximum salary when compared to Dual Role Paramedic/Firefighter classifications.

EMT is the highest of the 5 agencies with single role EMTs.

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JF Feb. 6, 2008 @ 6:38 a.m.

The median income of the top 1/3 of SD firefighters is 116K, including OT. Benefits and retirement are .57 on top of salary, not including OT. (According to Carl DeMaio) That runs about $40K/year. In other words, the median income of ALL firefighters is nowhere near $200K, given that the median income of the TOP 1/3 of San Diego firefighters is about $150K.

Search the VoSD for "topthousand" for the document that proves the median is $116K if you don't believe me.

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Don Bauder Feb. 6, 2008 @ 7:18 p.m.

Response to post #9: Names of people who abused system by working 5 years and buying 5 may well be made available. I will post when I get. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 6, 2008 @ 7:21 p.m.

Responses to posts 10-12: It's clear these reports can be read several ways. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 6, 2008 @ 7:25 p.m.

Response to posts 13-15: It's obvious there are disagreements here. I repeat: any City employee who is being paid more than the City can afford, and whose pay is driving the City toward bankruptcy, should not be comparing his or her pay with the same level in other locales. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 6, 2008 @ 7:28 p.m.

Response to posts #17 and 18: A stock market meltdown would be an utter disaster for the City. The Fed is more worried about the market than the economy. Why else would it lower rates 75 basis points just before the NYSE opening? But as we learned in 2000-2002, and in prior bears, the Fed and government can't stop a locomotive coming down the tracks. Best, Don Bauder

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