“If you say you can’t afford it, prove it. If you can’t prove it, pay up. We’re not being greedy here. It’s embarrassing how low we are paid compared to others. The average salary of a city employee in Redondo Beach is $47,000″ –  President, Redondo Beach Fire Association, January 15, 2014, Daily Breeze article “Negotiations become hostile between Redondo Beach and employee union.”

Notwithstanding that this statement, “If you say you can’t afford it, prove it. If you can’t prove it, pay up,” sounds like something a gangster would say in a mafia movie, it’s this line, “We’re not being greedy here,” that merits close examination. To start, that would require us to verify this, “The average salary of a city employee in Redondo Beach is $47,000.”

It’s hard to imagine that a coastal city in California would be paying a mere $47,000 to their employees, but that is what the California State Controller’s data “Redondo Beach at a glance” shows: “$47,879 average wages for this city’s [Redondo Beach] employees,” and “$18,203 average retirement & health cost for this city’s employees.” Adding the cost for employer paid benefits, the average total compensation package totals $66,082. That still doesn’t seem like very much, right?

We’ve run this drill many times. The State Controller’s averages are not accurate because they include part-time employees, as well as employees who may have worked full time and received employer paid benefits, but only worked a portion of the year due to either being hired, retired, or transferred during the year under analysis. Once you take out the part-time recreation leaders, school crossing guards, lifeguards, library clerks, library pages, theater technicians and maintenance trainees, a very different picture emerges.

Here, available in detail on a downloadable spreadsheet, using State Controller Data, is what Redondo Beach’s full-time workers are really making:

Redondo Beach Average Salary and Benefits – Full-Time Workers by Dept., 2012

20140121_Redondo_Beach_payroll-1It is up to the reader to determine if an average pay plus employer paid benefits package of $132,005 per year for full-time Redondo Beach employees is appropriate or not. But if the conversation must turn on the topic of greed, “we’re not being greedy here,” perhaps the reader should also consider the data by department. Because the pay and benefit package for non-public safety employees working full-time for Redondo Beach is $96,162 per year. This compares to an estimated household income in Redondo Beach in 2011 of $97,547. If you assume that government workers who work in wealthy communities should make as much as the average household makes (where there are usually more than one wage earner), you might argue that the non-safety employees in Redondo Beach are appropriately compensated and don’t require any increase or decrease to their pay and benefits.

What about the pay for public safety employees, however? Why have the members of the city council, and their beleaguered city manager, gotten into a war of words with the President of the Redondo Beach Fire Association? Do the full-time firefighters of Redondo Beach, whose pay and employer paid benefits in 2012 averaged $220,990 each, make too much?

Because too often these negotiations rest on this question: “If you say you can’t afford it, prove it. If you can’t prove it, pay up,” rather than this one, “We’re not being greedy here.”

If you dig around just a little online, you will learn that the president of the Redondo Beach Fire Association is a “Fire Engineer.” According to the State Controller’s website, Redondo Beach had 13 fire engineers who worked a full year in that position in 2013. On average, these individuals made $75,684 in regular pay, collected $60,142 in overtime pay, plus $23,322 in “other pay.” They then had the city make a contribution to their pension plan – including paying a portion of their share of their pension costs – of $44,309, plus employer paid health insurance averaged another $14,061. In all, each full-time fire engineer working for the City of Redondo Beach made on average $217,517 during 2012.

If you read the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Redondo Beach and the Redondo Beach Firefighers Association, that is, the labor agreement between the city and the union representing firefighters, you will be able to determine with relative certainty that during 2012 the average fire engineer made $217,517, on average, by working 162 shifts of 24 hours. Put another way, including overtime, they worked 3.1 shifts of 24 hours per week, and they were off the other four days.

Even Governor Jerry Brown has refused to exempt public safety employees from any proposed reforms to public sector compensation – in fact, his famous comments to that effect in the face of Meg Whitman’s capitulation to the public safety lobby during the early phases of the 2012 gubernatorial contest pretty much sealed his victory. To paraphrase Governor Brown, public safety compensation and benefits are one of the primary reasons for California’s municipal budget challenges.

Everyone agrees that police and firefighters deserve a premium for the risks they take to protect the public. But in California’s cities, their unions have marketed this risk, using compelling emotional arguments combined with formidable financial and political influence, in order to price their services well beyond what is affordable or appropriate. That is the unfortunate reality that far too few politicians have the courage to confront.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Public Policy Center

13 Responses to City of Redondo Beach Fights Unions – Full-time Firefighters Make $220,990 Total Compensation

  1. Tough Love says:

    Ed, Nice article, and keep up with the numerical tables. That makes it MUCH harder for those opposed to pension reform to dispute your findings.

    And, your last paragraph summarizes the situation PERFECTLY.

  2. UKNOWTHEIP says:

    “Because the pay and benefit package for non-public safety employees working full-time for Redondo Beach is $96,162 per year. This compares to an estimated household income in Redondo Beach in 2011 of $97,547.”

    So you broke down public employees to only full-time workers, then compared those public FT’s to the entire set of private households. You did this without breaking the private household set, nor did you remove from the private set jobs such as McDonalds, Dollar Store, and such other jobs that have no equal in the government.

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    With all that said, police and especially fire are paid too high. But at least we can be honest with our stats…? Somebody has to keep you honest.

  3. Ed Ring says:

    UKNOWTHEIP – It is not easy to get location-specific data for private sector income. Readily available statistics by city are per-capita income and household income. Your concern about using either of those for comparisons is valid, although it is probably fair to assume a “household” would have a full-time worker in it. And it is important to try to provide some perspective.

    The primary question is not whether or not public employees make more or less than the people living in whatever community they serve, but simply whether or not what our public employees make is affordable and appropriate. Apart from comparisons, there aren’t a lot of ways to determine what is appropriate. That we can’t afford what we’re paying is obvious, in my opinion. Comparisons are always subjective: Should a public servant in Beverly Hills make more than a public servant doing the same job in Desert Hot Springs, simply because the per-capita wealth and income in Beverly Hills is probably ten times what it is in Desert Hot Springs? Of course not. You could just as easily argue that public sector jobs are more challenging in lower income communities and invert that argument. Your point is well taken.

    There are far too many experts and pundits, producing studies and commentary, that manipulate statistics. We have NO interest in doing that here and welcome any corrective advice.

    • Tough Love says:

      Ed, I’ll take a shot at what should be considered “appropriate” …

      Appropriate is when 2 workers in comparable occupations (or, if not directly “comparable”, then with reasonably similar risks, skill sets, educational and experience requirements) in the Public and Private Sectors make very close “Total Compensation” (cash pay, current benefits, and the TRUE annual value of annual pension and retiree heath-care accruals).

      While there are competing studies, most show cash pay in the two Sectors to be quite close, but universally, PUBLIC Sector pensions and retiree healthcare promises are multiples greater in value at retirement, when BOTH the much richer pension formulas and the MUCH more generous (and VERY costly) Plan “provisions”(e.g., very young full retirement ages, inclusion of COLAs, etc.) are considered.

      With EQUAL “Total Compensation” being the “appropriate” goal, and with equal Public/Private Sector “cash pay”, there is ZERO justification for ANY greater pensions or benefits, let alone ones that are MULTIPLES greater … as is the case today … everywhere.

  4. Robert says:

    I saw your article on average wages for Redondo Beach. Would it be possible to talk to you about how you determined part time versus full time jobs and whether you included new employees (who depending when in the year they started could show low wages) as well as those who retired and their wages reflect part of a year.

    I wrote an article examining average wages for Vallejo compared to other similar size cities. Unadjusted Vallejo was at the top. But clearly this could change significantly depending on what data was eliminated. My concern is whether the aggregated data in the Controller database needs to be redone.

    Thank you in advance for any help you can be.

  5. Ed Ring says:

    Robert – We are preparing a study looking at Vallejo.

    Here is a link to the most recent analysis we did of a city payroll, that of Redondo Beach.
    http://unionwatch.org/city-of-redondo-beach-stands-up-to-unions-full-time-firefighters-make-220990-total-compensation/

    And here is a link to the downloadable spreadsheet we created, using state controller data.
    http://unionwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/01/Redondo_Beach_2012_Payroll_CA-State-Controller-Data.xlsx

    If you review the formatting of the sheets in this analysis you will see how many analytical objectives are achieved by using state controller data. Compare the “2012 Original” sheet, which shows the raw data from the state controller, to the “2012 Analysis” sheet. In the analysis sheet, four columns are added that will develop a pretty good indication of which records are part-time. If you examine these formulas, you will see that columns B, C, and D, respectively, will calculate “1” if the record has, respectively, a salary that is less than the minimum specified for that position, no pension, or no health coverage. Col. A then calculates “1,” indicating part-time, if any of those three criteria are met. There are positions that slip through, such as city council members who work part time yet collect benefits and have a salary that exceeds the minimum. But these are exceptions that are statistically insignificant in large cities and easy to manually correct (by overwriting the formula and adding a “1” in column A of the applicable records) for smaller cities.

    The state controller data is pretty useful and lends itself to what I believe is a valid analysis of part-time vs. full-time using the above method, which not only eliminates part-time positions, but also records for employees who retired, were hired, or transferred during the year and did not log a full year working in that position. This method distills the data down to those employees who worked full time for the full year, with benefits. These are the only valid averages to use when examining the sustainability of rates of pay and benefits for full time public employees.

  6. LP says:

    Remember that 3.1 shifts of 24 hours per week “with four days off” equals nearly a 75-hour workweek. And not all firefighters are engineers.

    The statistics also don’t reflect that Redondo Beach employees are under a two-tiered pension system—the city pays significantly less in pension costs for new hires.

  7. Ron says:

    I live in the highest per capita income neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, which is in the City of LA. Our firemen make an average of $165,000 per year including retirement benefits. The only time I see our firemen is when they go, en mass ,to Von’s to shop for groceries. They go every single day. Five go in and the rest sit in the trucks outside. Why is it necessary to have 7-8 firefighters shop for din din.And can’t they buy groceries for 2 days at a time or even 3 days? what, no refrigerator? I seriously doubt that. In over 30 years here, I’ve never seen a single house on fire. I really don’t know what they do except clean the trucks and equipment all day. That’ a lot of money(average) to pay people to shop for groceries! Why can’t they do their shopping before they get to work.What,15 minutes of their precious time isn’t allowed by the unions?

    • Tough Love says:

      Ron, you underestimate the insatiably GREEDY mindset of the Public Sector Unions/workers.

      Here’s an example(not sure if this was in CA)…..

      A Police Canine Officer took his police dog home after his shift each day and cared for it at home, likely taking some time each day for this family “PET” as well as police dog.

      After a few years caring for this dog, he sued the police department for back pay for the average hours spent per week caring for the dog.

      There is no limit to the insatiable greed of Public Sector Unions/workers.

  8. YOUKNOWTHEIP says:

    “The primary question is not whether or not public employees make more or less than the people living in whatever community they serve, but simply whether or not what our public employees make is affordable and appropriate.”

    Agreed, however, the public employee bashers are constantly trying to attack employees for what they have already earned – attacking pensioners. Changes going forward are possible, and are being done by Gov Brown. Breaking agreements already made for work completed isn’t appropriate.

    Far as comparing pay of one region to another, of course there will be variations in pay dependent on locale. You wouldn’t expect an engineer in California to make the same as an engineer in Georgia, unless you are a communist. You’re not a communist are you Ed…I will fill in the NSA on you. Expect a knock on the door.

    • Tough Love says:

      Quoting YOUKNOWTHEIP …… “Agreed, however, the public employee bashers are constantly trying to attack employees for what they have already earned – attacking pensioners. Changes going forward are possible, and are being done by Gov Brown. Breaking agreements already made for work completed isn’t appropriate.”

      I cringed when I read your words “already earned” in that paragraph …

      While the words “already promised” would have also bothered me, the word “earned” really made me cringe. Earth to YOUKNOWTHEIP, even with the workers having “worked” for the PAST period discussed, when the promised pension is so grossly excessive due ONLY to collusion between the Public Sector Unions and our self-serving elected officials who betrayed the Taxpayers, those pensions should certainly NOT be considered as “earned”.

      Additionally, with rare exceptions, FUTURE Service changes to date are a complete joke, rarely applying to anyone but NEW workers. Very MATERIAL (50+%) reductions in the pension accrual rate for future service should apply to ALL CURRENT workers ….. and the resultant pensions would STILL be greater than 90% of the pensions afforded comparable Private Sector workers.

  9. Friends of Torrance says:

    Simple facts why our children in Torrance (CA) are becoming an indentured servant to the City of Torrance Employee Unions

    (All statements can be fact checked at http://www.friendsoftorrance.com)
    If you are a Torrance resident of voting age please sign our group’s Save Our Children’s Future petition so we can stop this unethical plundering of our children’s future resources.

    Voting for a candidate in Torrance’s June 2014 elections that promises to change the current pension framework will never worked – only taxpayer organized petitions have been successful in changing the corruption in CA and other governmental entities.

    Our petition will ensure your children’s future standard of living is protected and will ensure all City employees are compensated in an equitable manner.

    In 2003 the Torrance’s pension funds were funded at ~110% and for the last thirty years CalPERS has averaged ~9.3% return, ~1 3/4 to 2% each year above CaLPERS yearly Return On Investments (ROI) requirements

    Yet as of 30 June 2011, eight years later, the City has an Unfunded Termination Liability (UTL) debt of ~$815M. The City’s 30 June 2012 UTL figure has been posted and Torrance now has ~$1.63 BILLION dollars of unfunded termination liability (UTL).

    As of CY 2012 622 or 47.26% of Torrance City Employees had compensation > $100,000 ($100K). Compensation includes Salary, Health and Pension contributions.

    As of CY 2012 440 or 33.43% of Torrance City Employees had salaries > $100,000 ($100K). Salary does not include Health and Pension contributions.

    As of CY 2012 687 or 52.20% of Torrance City Employees had salaries > $80,000 ($ 80K). Salary does not include Health and Pension contributions.

    As of CY 2012 12 Torrance Safety Officers (Police & Fire) had pension contributions > $100,000 ($ 100K). Annual Pension Contribution includes Pension, Employer Paid Member Contribution (EPMC) and Deferred Compensation contributions – the average of these 12 is ~ $113K.

    Seven Safety Officer’s pension contributions in 2011 were the 16th, 22nd, 32nd, 35th, 36th, 48th, and 60th highest pension contributions out of ~1.2M CalPERS members.

    As of CY 2012 53 or 25% of Torrance Police Officers had compensation > $250,000 ($250K). Compensation includes Salary, Health and Pension contributions.

    As of CY 2012 140 or 65% of Torrance Police Officers had compensation > $200,000 ($200K).

    As of CY 2012 5 Torrance Police Sergeants had compensation > $300,000 ($300K). Compensation includes Salary, Health and Pension contributions.

    As of CY 2012 204 or 94% of Torrance Police Officers had salaries > $100,000 ($100K). Salaries do not include Health and Pension contributions.

    As of CY 2012 37 or 26% of Torrance Firefighters had compensation > $250,000 ($250K). Compensation includes Salary, Health and Pension contributions.

    As of CY 2012 99 or 68% of Torrance Firefighters had compensation > $200,000 ($200K). Compensation includes Salary, Health and Pension contributions.

    As of CY 2012 134 or 96% of Torrance Fire Fighters had salaries > $100,000 ($100K). Salaries do not include Health and Pension contributions.

    In 2012 Torrance had one manager to every 2.36 workers.

    Positions included in this count have “Senior”, “Supervisor”, “Manager”, “Director” Assistant City Manager, Assistant Manager, Police and Fire Key Leader positions (Police Sergeant, Police Lieutenant, Police Captain, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Battalion Fire Chief, and Fire Captain)

    The average pension contribution was ~$72K & ~$67K for the TPD & TFD for FY 2013/2014.

    Torrance’s Safety Officers annual pension contribution rates were in the highest 6% out of all the CalPERS agencies or members in FY 2009/2010, highest 12% in 2010/2011 and highest 14% in 2011/2012. Torrance’s drop in position is because more CalPERS members or agencies Annual Pension Contributions increased above the 40% level.

    A Torrance Fire Dept. (TFD) retiree’s annual pension for 30 YRS of service is $129,000 and for the Torrance Police Dept. (TPD) retiree it is $99K as of 30 June 2006 – seven years ago.

    147+ or ~15% of City retirees receive 100K + pensions -Average retiree pension is~$125K for this elite over $100K club as of early 2012.

    City employees on average receive ~$2400 per year just in longevity increases- this does not include their pay raises – as of Aug 2012.

    City employees on average receive $2600 per year just in premium pay incentives- this does not include their pay raises – as of Aug 2012.

    Please sign our Save our Children’s Future petition at http://www.friendsoftorrance.com.

    To ToughLove and the authors of this site your efforts are well respected by the astute citizens that know exactly how our governmental resources are being plundered by the collective bargaining units and the vote for me politicians. Your help in supporting grass root petitions against this generational theft is sincerely appreciated.

  10. Ed Rad says:

    Something missing from this analysis: How many fire fighting personnel (authorized positions) did Redondo Beach have in 2005? How many do they have in 2014? Although I do not personally have the stat, I know it is less today. Positions were cut in recent years to balance the budget. Factor in the reality that it takes a specific number of fire fighters to staff an engine and another number to staff a paramedic rig (you can’t run short, no one wants to see just 1 paramedic show up for a heart attack) you immediately understand mandatory overtime is required to sufficiently staff the equipment. So, first the city cuts personnel, then when they hire the existing fire fighters on overtime to fill the vacancies the city created they city complains the fire fighters make too much at the end of the year. Nice game.

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