We need change on the fire board

I read the Fire Board incumbent’s comments.

What I conclude is “trust me.”  As an observer of board and committee meetings, I can say the two gentlemen are good people.  hat’s not today’s issue. With their history of a decade of unlimited resources were they realistic? Have they demonstrated fiscal balance, reasonable employee benefits? The local grand jury questioned and now the Saturday, Oct. 20,Sac Bee endorsement of Brian Veerkamp identified the “lavish pay and pensions” of the EDH fire district.

Why is a statewide firefighter union lending its unlimited generic support to the incumbents?  Why? The tide has changed. San Diego and San Jose citizens voted to pull back from runaway employee benefit contracts. That trend threatens them.

El Dorado Hills fire is a poster child for fire unions to retain their status quo. If El Dorado Hills firemen can average $200,000 per year in salary and benefits for responding to one of the lowest service call rates, how would anyone dare challenge firemen elsewhere with lesser pay and more work? How better to maintain this high standard then to re-elect the board and protect the “lavish” benefits?

The incumbents recount history. Thank you. We have a good department. But as a career government employee, I know no one does this alone. “A rising tide raises all boats.” Our fire district receives an exceptional 17.5 percent of your base property tax. You do the math and see what you pay. Then multiply that by 92 percent because that is the portion of the operating budget for personnel salary and benefits alone. And EDH is not a hardship post. EDH fire gets extra ERAF, JPA and special development fees as well. Our department should have large reserves. The budget is on the department’s website under Documents and Forms for all to read.

While their pensions have fixed benefits the cost to taxpayers is not. We have unrecorded liability because inflated CalPERS investment projections are unrealistic. The pension is underfunded, creating a shortage, an unknown debt, floating in the future. That debt is the responsibility of the fire district; also know as we the local taxpayers. After 10 years, the union just began to contribute to their pension, a minimal 3 percent.  Optimally retiring at age 50 at 90 percent of final year pay for life with cost of living adjustment. And all lifetime health benefits for member and family are paid solely by the taxpayer. The extra uniform, education, assigned over-time, vacation, sick leave pay all add up.  The union contract is on the board website also.

We need a change. The era of uncaring citizen is over.  We need people who look at costs realistically and look to the future of an emergency service agency.  It is time for fire services to admit their functions have evolved and shed the expensive iconic imagery. We need board members who are not indebted to historic decisions, ties and obligations from past and current union support. See www.edhfirefacts.com.

Richard Ross
El Dorado Hills

This story falls on page "5"
Posted by on Oct 23 2012.
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