Editor’s Note: Angela Stubblefield and Elbert Reed are running for Fire District 28 Commissioner Position No. 2. The two candidates agreed to an in-paper debate and answered two questions this week.
Editorial question: If you believe firefighters are paid too much, how much should they be paid and how do you propose to rollback salaries as a commissioner when the fire board is dealing with a legally binding contract? If the firefighters’ salaries are appropriate, will these salaries be sustainable?
• Stubblefield: Yes, King County Fire District 28 firefighters are overpaid. Comparables are derived from a formula all fire departments use. Comparables are based upon population and assessed value. This district needs to get real and use appropriate comparables. KCFD 28 is not South County Fire, Burien, Auburn, or Kent, yet the district has used them to justify their inflated salaries. The usual measure of a comparable is to look at department’s that are 150 percent more or 150 percent less than them. KCFD 28 has used departments ranging 250 – 500 percent above their appropriate comparable.
Comparatively, KCFD 28 ranks number one in overtime expense. The current contract expires at the end of 2014 and can be renegotiated. The total cost of compensation is key … not just wages! Because district firefighters have a healthy pension plan, they opted out of Social Security. This decision allows them to pocket the amount the employee and employer would have contributed (12.4 percent increase) every month. Additionally, there are elaborate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) clauses (paying additional dollars), to premium medical benefits where all out of pocket expenses are paid for firefighters and their families.
District firefighters receive COLA increases regardless of the Consumer Price Index. Additionally, guaranteed yearly step and longevity increases are added to the 2-5 percent yearly COLA. Taxpayers, has this happened to you?
KCFD 28 did not ride with their taxpayers through the economic storm. Instead of tightening their belt; additional firefighters were hired, salaries and wages were increased, and overpriced and expensive property was purchased – Why?
Mr. Reed authored the pro statement to raise your taxes in the voter’s guide. He never should have volunteered to raise your taxes without first insisting the district clean up its act. Taxpayers cannot continue to sustain such golden compensation packages. This has got to stop.
• Reed: The Enumclaw King County Fire District 28 firefighter salaries are less than appropriate. Any employer wishing to recruit and retain competent employees must offer a competitive wage and benefit package. The offering needs to be at or near the mid-point of what competing employers are offering for the same job. Our competing employers for firefighters include Burien, East Pierce, South King County, Valley Regional Fire Authority, Maple Valley, King County Fire District 44 (Black Diamond) and Duvall. The monthly salary mid-point (half are above and half below) is $6,669 for a person with four years of experience. We are paying our firefighter’s $6,500 per month, sixth from the top out of eight. The total monthly benefit package mid-point is $8,894, and the Enumclaw package is $8,565, seventh from the top.
Being competitive in the market place drives these decisions, as any Human Resource manager will tell you. If you don’t pay a competitive wage, you will get less than quality recruits. Further, you will spend much more time and cost training new recruits as the experienced staff leave for better paying positions.
It is not appropriate to consider overtime pay when comparing wages. When management understaffs for the workload, employees must work overtime to cover the required operations or to produce the needed result.
The current salaries are sustainable in the short term but not in the long term. Short term we need to ensure that cost of living adjustments keep up. In the long term and as the economy recovers, we need to bring pay and benefits closer to the mid-point in order to retain quality employees. We do this by passing the Levy lid lift. If the levy does not pass, we reduce staffing but do not cut pay. We want those on duty to know they are fully supported and appreciated by the community.
Editorial question: Address any issue that you feel has not been vetted. This can be a rebuttal of statement, a new subject or expanding on a previously stated position.
• Stubblefield: By now you have had a chance to get to know my opponent, and me. I have been volunteer firefighter/EMT for 18 years. I know proper fire procedures. While King County Fire District 28 firefighters provide quality service, the district culture and its business practices are sick. I have strongly advocated to have the Cumberland and 212th stations staffed immediately. Chief (Joe) Clow stated 80 percent of the district’s calls are EMS (emergency medical services) related. By simply redistributing personnel, all taxpayers benefit if two personnel minimums were placed in each of these stations.
By making this change, personnel are in a better position to respond to multiple calls. Additional water supply is made available should a fire call be dispatched. Please do not allow Mr. Reed to use scare tactics and erroneous statements to justify union firefighter agenda.
Mr. Reed continues to deny the problem of exorbitant overtime costs. He dismisses the horrible property-purchase decisions associated with remaining Commissioner (Dave) Hannity. Mr. Reed is aligned to him and the firefighters union. There is a reason why 28 firefighters endorsed Mr. Reed, he like the other commissioners, will do what they tell him to do.
• Reed: In her Part III statements we see that Ms. Stubblefield will resolve the financial issue by gutting the department, and she continues her campaign of dis-information. As to her comment that I support the firefighters – yep, I plead guilty as they deserve our support. Not many jobs require you to put your life on the line every day. Also, I am retired and am well aware of the impact of taxes on a fixed income.
For someone who has repeatedly said, “we love our firefighters, it is management we deplore,” she has a funny way of showing that support. Reducing pay that is already below the mid-point of the market pay for fire fighters, along with the chiefs’ pay, will ensure an exodus that will not be filled with volunteers. Further she will remove the revenue producing medical transport service: Why?
My opponent demonstrates her lack of credibility by intentionally misconstruing the data I provided. She argues that I have endorsed all past actions of the Board of Commissioners. The facts: The following statements can be found in my campaign literature and on my website at www.eorkcfd28.org .
“The Cumberland station upgrade was critically needed in order to meet coverage needs. The project was not well planned or executed, resulting in serious cost overruns. The District appeared to lack experience in planning and executing large complex projects.
“Purchase of land for new station. I need to see facts and data supporting the need for a new station at the Roosevelt site. Such capital purchases should be part of an overall Fire District Strategic plan that identifies the need for and siting of such facilities.”
In short, I focus on facts and data and where that leads. I don’t form an opinion and then mangle the truth to support it.