Five of 14 of Oakdale’s rank and file firefighters made over $100,000 in 2013 according to figures obtained by The Leader.
In total, 2013 showed nine city employees collected over six-figures in pay, with three of them upper management department heads – city manager, finance director, and police chief – and one was from the time accumulation pay out due to a retiring veteran police sergeant combined with his pay for the partial year.
No other line city employees – police, public works, administrative – topped the six-figure mark.
Across the city payroll, overtime payments significantly contributed to the increased earnings. Some salaries also were boosted by “other earnings,” a category that includes one-time payouts for unused time off.
The overtime compensation alone for the five $100K firefighters ranged from $9,800 to a high of $35,526 for a fire captain. Other compensation included several thousand dollars each classified as “other compensation” other than cash-outs as high as $18,432 for an engineer and $10,322 for a captain.
Two of the cash out payments were in the $14,500 range each for the two firefighters that received layoff notices at the end of the year. Their full-year’s salary, combined with their overtime and leave payouts pushed them both over the $100,000 mark.
These figures do not include employer retirement and benefit costs paid by the city to all employees.
All of the fire department overtime costs did not come directly out of city coffers as mutual aid incidents, such as the RIM fire from last summer, are paid by the state.
Oakdale has confronted rising service and pension costs as it has contended with post-recession unemployment, strained property tax revenues, and a drop in sales-tax takings. The city has struggled to support rising associated pension costs even as it has cut police and fire services for city residents.
As expenses rise for the city, Oakdale has pursued a half-cent sales tax increase under the 2011 passed Measure O to encompass general fund costs. In 2013, the city also made cuts reducing the firefighting staff from an authorized 14 to 12 persons on the payroll.
While overtime payments aren’t calculated into retirement percentages, “other earnings” such as uniform allowances, hazard pay and shift differentials are used for retirement purposes.
The city’s firefighters, when they aren’t out on calls, are training for emergency incidents of river water rescues, hazardous material spills, vehicle extrications and more. Some of that expertise in their field entitles them to specialty pay.
The city is currently pursuing contracting with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District at a proposed $2.4 million cost.
Under the contract plan, the city would still maintain control of its facilities and apparatus but the city’s current firefighters, and all costs associated including overtime, would automatically be part of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District.
The City of Oakdale already contracts with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Department for management services and joint station staffing in the city.
The Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District was formed in 1995 as a measure to help reduce costs within each district as well as consolidate equipment and staffing under one management staff. The district has 51 full-time employees.
Not including the five from its command staff of chief, deputy chief, and battalion chiefs, the same report showed the district only had five of its 46 line-level employees – all captains with overtime – top $100,000 in compensation. Despite classified as management employees, the three battalion chiefs for the district all received overtime all around the $20,000 range.