Public Employee Salaries and the State Controller website postings


I am one of those guys that gets infuriated when I see one of those signs that say, “YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK”, just as you hit a jarring bump that might have bent a wheel. I am also a public safety employee, having started as a volunteer fire fighter at the age of 17, and working the last 13 years as a full time Engineer/Fire Fighter. I have spent nearly 2000 hours in emergency medical service training, and several times that in fire suppression, fire prevention, hazardous materials, auto extrication, disaster management, leadership, management, etc.. I am currently a state licensed paramedic(not currently practicing), locally accredited EMT, HAZMAT Technician, State Fire Instructor, and confined space technician, to name a few of my so called accomplishments. My training records and education records would most likely show over 8,000 hours in training and education. Thats the equivalent of 4-5 bachelor degrees. I am not bragging. This is normal for most professionals in public safety in both law enforcement and the fire service.

Why do I bring this up? Today, I saw an article in the Lake County News regarding the publishing of public employees salaries on a website. I applaud this move, however I wish they would add information as to how the salaries reach their sometimes high salaries. Last year I was astounded to see that my salary was noted at $112,000. Not that I didn’t know that I made that much money, it’s just that the ONLY thing stated, was that I made $112,000. Seems high when you simply look at it…….

What is an Engineer Fire Fighter worth per year? And Why? Lastly, should this be as infuriating to you as those darn road signs are to me?

Lets break down some numbers:

78,000 My base salary after 17 years as an employee at my agency

112,000 2011 total salary

34,000 the overtime earned during said year.

If I worked 40 hours per week, that would be one dandy hourly salary. But I don’t work 40 hours per week. Instead of working approximately 2040 hours a year before overtime, I work 2756 of my regularly scheduled hours on straight pay, due to the FLSA requirements that say fire fighters don’t get paid overtime till 53 hours per week. When I became full time as a fire fighter I believe my base hourly wage was 11.83. Seventeen years later I now make a little under 25.00 per hour. My base salary is determined by adding the 2756 regular hours, with the 156 overtime hours accumulated annually by my 56 hour work week. This bring me to a total base scheduled hours of 2,912 hours per year to make 78,000 dollars. So instead of working 2040 hours like many in management, and other non public safety employees, I get to work 2912 hours annually. Lets put that in perspective, I work 48 hours out of every 144, or 1/3 of the year, every year. In order to make 34,000 in overtime, I would need to work an additional 918 hours of overtime give or take. That total nears 44% of the year for nearly 4000 hours, and doesn’t include commuting and such.

In Summary, I spent nearly half my year at a firehouse, for 112,000 dollars gross pay(or 29.24 per hour). Out of that I pay 9% of my base salary for my PERS retirement contribution alone, plus medical insurance premiums, state and federal taxes, and several other deductions like every other employee in the the US that come off the top of my pay.

I don’t always want all that overtime, but unfortunately in a small department, with minimal staffing we often have to work out the schedule as a group, or be forced to work days I’d rather not. After spending 44% of my time at the fire house, regardless of how much I love my job, you do what you got to do.

So, is my salary defendable? Personally I think the base salary is spot on, the overtime however shows a ton of extra hours being worked. Do you know anyone with the equivalent in training hours to multiple four year degrees, who will work 3800 hours per year, for 112,000.  I worked almost twice as much as most regular 40 hour employees, gave up a higher % of personal family time above and beyond that of regular 40 hour employees, which forced my wife to do much more at home for my kids and me. Additionally, the MOU between public employees and their employers often have requirments that increase the cost of living for employees. For example, until recently I was bound by contract to live within 20 minutes of my fire station. When I was looking for a home the median was one million dollars in the response area of my employment. My point, there are many things we don’t know about the salaries, additional requirements, local cost of living, etc, of agencies we are not familiar with. Maybe, I should re-analyze my opinion of those road signs and enjoy the good roads we do have, and my ability to navigate them freely.

Lastly, what should the website that shows public employees salaries say? It can’t possibly show everything I’ve written about each employee or position. But maybe, it should show base salary and annual hours, overtime salary and accumulated hours, and list some of the job description, education, and training requirements or certifications in order to properly justify the salaries shown. If they don’t do that, then no one should be surprised about people who express their opinions and or disapproval of the salaries of some public officials. Many people get paid too much, and many too little.

Our job as public servants should always be to meet and exceed job standards. To responsibly spend tax funds, and to be honest and trustworthy, while getting paid appropriately.

Lake County News Link

Bilt vs Sidi ….right!

Sometime in 2003 I decided that leaking Joe Rocket motorcycle boots were just not good enough. Now I won’t bash Joe Rocket too much, cause it was the only thing I ever bought from them, but they did leak, and were supposed to be waterproof. Anyway, I was on a trip in Montana when they started leaking. The next day I needed to get some tires put on my R1100rt and wound up at Big Sky BMW in Montana.

Now I have always appreciated a good boot. Growing up in the logging industry, before becoming a fire fighter you tend to notice quality boots and are naturally attracted to the better things in life for your feet, as you don’t want to wear those things out. Your feet are the only set you ever get. I found a set of 46 or 47 Sidi Sympatex On Road boots and immediately tried them on. They felt great immediately. In fact they fit so well I tossed my existing Joe Rockets in the trash before I left for Canada. I was in the middle of a 28 day trip in the US and Canada, and throughout the trip I hit rain periodically but had no issues at all with the boots.

Over the following 9 years and 500,000 miles the boots performed like new. WATERPROOF, comfortable, and used nearly daily the SIDI Sympatex never failed me. Eventually however, the material gave way. Years of abuse, neglect, and persistent harsh weather caused a seam to give way. I tossed them as it appeared the material throughout the boot was so thin now they could not be repaired. I can’t say enough about Sidi. The boots performed as any quality boot should, and you pay for that. I believe I paid just under $300.00 in 2003. I should have ordered some more immediately.

I wore some retired station boots up north to get my Russell Seat built in late fall of 2011 and stopped at a cycle gear. They had some waterproof boots built by their own brand, Bilt. They were called the Bilt Tempest H20 boot. I thought I should just order Sidi’s but It looked like it might rain out and I didn’t have anything else. They were on sale as well for 79.99, down from 130.00 or so.  They looked decent, but didn’t have the quality feel or look that the Sidi’s had. I bought them however, and the store shipped my other boots to my home for me at no cost. A nice touch I thought! Let’s fast forward 15,000 miles. They leak. Almost every seam at the base can be pulled apart by hand, and nothing is waterproof. They don’t look that worn, the soles are in great shape, and they leak. Did I mention they leak! I checked out some other Bilt stuff at the local Cycle gear and found it to be lacking as well. There is no comparison between the garbage that is BILT, and the quality Italian built beauty called Sidi! Needless to say I am on the hunt for some Sidi boots.

August 3, 2012 Alaska Trip Day 15

279 Miles Bonners Ferry to Enterprise Oregon

Our luck headed home hit a bump in the road, quite literally when Eric got a rear flat. Now I’ve been running tubless for many years, and dealing with that darn rim on that KLR was no joke for my inexperienced self. However between Eric, Dave, and I we got her back together after quite some time. We decided to get some dinner, and the headed south.

I had been telling everyone about this dandy little road we were going to hit, and had really worked it up to being something great. Little did I know, they had just laid down tar and gravel. And it was those perfect little round stones, and made you feel as if you were riding on marbles. So, 100 miles of riding on marbles on a road neither of them new brought us to Enterprise Oregon, where we found one motel with a room. It was a very long day, and one id rather not repeat!


Bonners Ferry, ID to Enterprise OR 300 miles

Flat tire

July 30, 2012 Alaska Trip Day 11

Incredible day! Dave had mentioned that he didn’t want to travel up the Dalton with us the week prior because of his bike. Essentially a big old BMW touring bike, heavy, a little low on power, and a really clean machine. Top of the world proved to be much nastier than the dalton. Fresh rain and road construction throughout made for a slower, fun filled ride that eventually resulted in yours truly breaking out the vast majority of Dave’s headlights. There are six of them. And a gs on a dirt and gravel road at speeds exceeding 60 mph can really toss a few rocks in the air. It was a long day, on very worn out tires, and included unbelievably beautiful sights, a fabulous and quick border crossing, and a gorgeous ferry ride crossing the Dawson river.

Dawson city, is a nice little trip to the past. You can see the occasional horse tied to a post right next to a jeep, or a vette for that matter.
The buildings for the most part could be taken right out of any good old western, and the saloons are awesome! We would have stayed there, but the day was so young. We decided to press on to white horse after a decent meal and a cold beer, so we could find some tires the next morning. It was a very long lunch, and I don’t normally drink and ride, not even one beer. But, I made one exception.

Total 520 Miles

Tok, AK to Dawson CIty 190 miles

Dawson City to Whitehorse 330 miles

July 29th, 2012 Alaska Trip Day 10

470 Miles

Wiseman to Tok

Day ten was fun. We rode out of Wiseman and had breakfast in Coldfoot, AK. It was nice that we knew the road, and what to expect. Speeds were 60-70 except in the constructions zones. We hit the Elliot at mach 3 and scooted our way to Fairbanks to drop off a patch and Tshirt at the main fire station. We asked the Captain there where we could find a car wash to knock the Calcium chloride off our bikes. A slight detour to the north pole while en-route to Tok and the vast majority of that nasty stuff was gone. We arrived in Tok and found Dave. He had already got a room and had dinner so Eric and I got some food. I needed to do some laundry but it was already 10pm. I meandered around Tok till I found another small hotel with an understanding manager and started my laundry. About 30 minutes later he came in to check on me, and saw my laptop, and asked if I wanted the wifi password. That’s when I started catching up on this blog and checked out what was going on in the world. It was after midnight when I snuck back into the room. Eric and Dave were out so quietly put my stuff away and passed out too.