Fire board fiscally prudent?
I read with dismay your front page article on Oct. 17 implying the present fire board has exercised sound fiscal management. This is absurd given the extravagant compensation EDH firefighters receive. Their annual salary, overtime and education incentives average about $135,000 to $140,000 in addition to fully paid health care and an attractive retirement plan.
Firefighters are paramedics with formal training equivalent to a two-year associate college degree. Such people in the private sector receive well under $100,000 a year. The Grand Jury report cited a study published by American River College stating the median annual salary for paramedics not employed by a fire department in the Sacramento region is $41,229.
The EDH Fire Department is funded by property taxes and developer fees. Until the recent economic downturn this generated substantial revenues because EDH had experienced high growth. A significant reserve was also accumulated. Though the fire board has negotiated some positive changes resulting in reducing overtime, requiring firefighters to contribute to their retirement plan and controlling salaries, this was not because of fiscal prudence. They were simply running out of money.
The fire board in the past has simply spent all they had without regard to what they should spend. They take credit for staying within budget ignoring the budget is more than twice what it should be.
The majority of EDH residents are unaware of how the EDH Fire Department is structured. This must change if these issues are to be addressed and your publication could provide a great service to EDH taxpayers by creating an awareness of the problem. For example, you could conduct a comprehensive survey of firefighter compensation throughout the state and country. Much of these data are readily available. It is true EDH firefighters are not the only ones receiving extravagant compensation but that is not justification for the present levels and you will find many areas much lower.
El Dorado Hills