Yesterday’s column was about the power of the Yonkers municipal unions and the stalled contract talks with the city’s administration. More than a few readers reacted to the list I included that showed the average salaries (including overtime) for the city cops, firefighers and teachers.
Here’s some of the e-mails.
TO PHIL REISMAN
“The misleading information the administration provided you with of
average 2006 salaries (including overtime) for Yonkers firefighters of $91,177 should instead be classified as “the average total compensation.”
I’m not agreeing to the figure, and for the purpose of this letter I’ll not dispute it, that last year the average Yonkers firefighter’s total compensation was $91,177. However, there is a very clear distinction between salary and compensation and to give one or the other without clarification can be very misleading.
Yonkers Firefighters are “salaried” employees under the collective bargaining agreement between Local 628 and the City of Yonkers. The base salary of a firefighter at “top pay” is currently $67,616.29. That IS the base “salary.”
Firefighters MAY receive additional compensation for:
– longevity after 9, 14, and 19 years of service (I and about 1/2 of all firefighters do NOT receive any longevity payments);
– stipends for being certified first responders and EMT’s (I and many other firefighters do NOT receive this stipend);
– Holiday pay (we work 24/7 every day, including Christmas, New Years, 4th of July, etc.);
– uniform replacement and upkeep; and
What the administration failed to inform you of is that the gap between the “Salary” of $67,616.29 and what they classify as “the average salary” of $91,177 is made up of the above several components, including overtime. In 2006, the difference between these two amounts was due mainly to overtime compensation earned by Yonkers firefighters.
Now the administration may find it useful and self serving to say that in 2006 firefighters were paid an average of $91,177, thus implying that firefighters make this amount of money every year. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
It is disingenuous for the administration to release such misleading information without a full disclosure of why the “average salary” (or what I would classify as “average compensation”) was much greater than usual. The fact is that the City has not hired any additional firefighters in almost three (3) years while the number of total firefighters employed by the city has been reduced by over 25 members through retirements and attrition. The net effect of the City deciding not to hire additional firefighters during this period has led to those positions being filled with firefighters on overtime. So while the “average compensation” of firefighters for last year may have been $91,177 it was an anomaly due to the extraordinary overtime that was created by the failure of the administration to hire replacement firefighters to make up for the loss of firefighters due to attrition. This most certainly does not represent the “average salary” of Yonkers Firefighters in a typical year. Indeed, if the administration today were to hire new recruits to replace the open positions, the “average compensation” of Yonkers firefighters for 2007 would be much closer to the $67,616.29 “salary” than the amount espoused by the administration as the “average salary.”
I hope you will find this letter helpful in giving full and accurate coverage to this story and that I have clarified any misunderstanding as to the actual salary of Yonkers firefighters.
Please feel free to email me or call with any additional questions you may have regarding this issue.
Barry B. McGoey
V.P. Yonkers Firefighters Local 628 I.A.F.F. ”
TO PHIL REISMAN
“As always, you omit the civil service personnel of the Yonkers School System. Please be advised that my membership is close in total to 1,800 members of which 90% live and vote in Yonkers. We are a very prominent and visible union, and one of the largest in this city. Therefore, I ask, do not put us down as second class citizens, we are not invisible as we carry a lot of weight in the political arena.
President, Unit 9169
And finally, this interesting little bit from an accountant:
TO PHIL REISMAN
“If you had only added the current Ã¢â‚¬Å“cashÃ¢â‚¬? costs of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“fringe benefitsÃ¢â‚¬?, such as health, pension, etc. which in most municipalities average about 40% additional and then the Ã¢â‚¬Å“hiddenÃ¢â‚¬? cost of their post employment health benefits, which can add $20,000 per year per individual for a uniformed police officer and the Ã¢â‚¬Å“ordinaryÃ¢â‚¬? taxpayer might get really upset. The post employment costs have been hidden front public view because the old government accounting standards didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t require municipalities to account for this like public companies have had to do for many, many years. In most cases, after the calculations are done, municipalities will realize that they have no fund balances and are very deeply in debt for past services.
Michael J. Kolesar, CPA
Former Trustee, Village of Ardsley”