SAN RAMON, CA -- Some California taxpayers think a local fire department is "playing with fire" with regard to salaries.
CBS San Francisco reports in 2015, some San Ramon Valley Firefighters earned $400,000 a year in total compensation (including pension and benefits). More than half of full-time staff members at the department earned more than $300,000 in total compensation. Starting salaries were in the $90,000 range.
San Ramon Valley Fire Chief Paige Meyer said a lot of that money was overtime pay. He argued paying overtime saves tax payers money, because it is less expensive than hiring someone new and adding another set of benefit costs.
But, the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association isn't buying that logic.
"Does it make sense that a battalion chief in San Ramon should earn $300,000 when our governor only earns $180,000 a year in compensation?” asked Taxpayers Association president Jack Weir.
Weir said the fire department's salaries and overtime are unreasonable, unaffordable and unsustainable.
Chief Meyer disagreed, saying his district is setting the right example.
"We have a very sustainable system. We’re paying all of our unfunded liabilities. We’re actually one of the only agencies that I know of in the United States that pays extra money toward our unfunded liabilities in retired, medical and pension costs."