Letters to the Editor

Fire board spending unconscionable

By October 29, 2012


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.

Jim Sobczak
El Dorado Hills

Letter to the Editor

Discussion | 1 comment

  • John PetersonNovember 02, 2012 - 9:24 am

    Change on the Fire Board needed and required: The EDH citizens won't have the luxury of a Grand Jury investigation to watch and report on their Fire Departments indiscretions every year. The Grand Jury report can be found at http://www.edcgov.us/Government/GrandJury/2010-2011_Grand_Jury_Report.aspx As a former Fireman myself, it was obvious the EDH Fire Department was overstaffed and overspending. The Grand Jury report simply verified what I already knew. The Grand Jury declared that the EDH FD had been irresponsible in their spending of taxpayer dollars, despite receiving a disproportionally high amount. The FD receives 17.5% of your property tax dollars. Even the last Fire Chief was quoted as saying "they were overstaffed and suffering from runaway overtime expenses". And while the FD has started to make a few corrections, but it shouldn't take getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar for them to start becoming fiscally responsible. A growing number of bright citizens were taking notice as well, unhappy our tax dollars were being misused. Three of them decided to come forward to help the community by running for the Fire Board, offering to use their business experience to help. Each challenger has both a strong college degree and strong business management experience. I would consider this future contribution to the Fire Board an upgrade. I for example now have a degree from one of the world highest rated research universities, and several years experience managing sales for a small segment of one of our countries leading medical product providers. But rather than honor and respect El Dorado Hills citizens who have donated their time and money to help the community, a few members of the Fire Department or their "friends" decided to launch several insult-laden attacks on the board challengers. More on that in a moment. But what is a Fire Board? The usual city has a Mayor, City Council, and a City Manager. Those folks oversee and approve the spending proposed by the city's departments (police dept, water dept, parks & recreation dept, and fire dept.) The City Manager is often the one with the greatest amount of business and financial acumen. El Dorado Hills, however, is a District. That means the Fire Department is overseen only by a 5 member Fire Board. Historically, according to "Firefighters Association", all but one board member over the last 10 or so years, have been people the Firemen have worked hard to get elected. Why do the Firemen care so much? Simple: the Fire Board decides, among others things, what Firemen will be paid. Wouldn't it be great to help determine who gives us our raises and compensation? You bet it would. That's why you are seeing mailings with smiling firemen touting the incumbents (Hartley and Hidahl). You'll notice they forgot to mention the Grand Jury report on their mailings. Assume it's no accident the EDHFD has extremely high compensation (The Chief has budgeted $202,000 per fireman for 2013 - officers such as Captain are considerably higher). The board also allowed the firemen to dictate that they receive a virtual cornucopia of mouth-watering overtime money (around $2000 per day) if they wished to "work" more than their usual 10 days per month. As you can guess, those "overtime" days are very popular. As a former Fireman myself, I would appreciate our Fire Department having a little less concern for themselves, and a little more concern for the well-being their community. The Fire Board should be more aware of the financial struggles many families in our community are experiencing. Better Fire Board leadership will help with that immensely. With prudent spending, more astute buying, and better business acumen, the entire community will benefit. The ball is in the voters court. If you want more of what the Grand Jury called fiscal irresponsibility, vote for the incumbents. If you want an upgrade to people who can provide financial guidance for the Fire Board, vote for Peterson and Petersen.



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