New report shows San Diego Fire-Rescue is costing taxpayers more in 2019
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego Fire-Rescue is facing a staffing crisis. This is according to a union representative, after the new Independent Analyst Budget was released. The report highlights how much overtime firefighters are being forced to work and it’s costing taxpayers millions.
The report says in 2014 the department spent 29.7 million dollars. That number is continuing to jump, with the department spending 45.4 million in 2018, and a projected 45.9 million for fiscal year 2019.
From 2014 to this years projected budget, Fire-Rescue overtime went up by more than 50-percent with no end in sight.
Councilmember Chris Cate says the city is hiring more police officers, more people to fill in the pot holes and fix sidewalks, and the city is looking at its need for more firefighters.
Fire season in California is year round and last year, the burn was felt across the entire state. Our firefighters are already stretched in the city, and are still sent elsewhere, racking up more over time and premium overtime at that.
A new deal between the city and fire unions, changed overtime criteria, allowing firefighters to take home a higher rate of pay.
San Diego fire unions point to the lack of pension benefits package. San Diego is the only municipality in the country that doesn’t offer one. Cate knows this and is optimistic about a deal being reached that enhances incentives for firefighters to stay.
“We are losing firefighters at an astronomical rate. This is unprecedented in the history of the department. It has everything to do with pay and benefits compared to cost of living. They are leaving for other departments”, said Captain Dena Chavez.
The city will also be creating four more fire academies over the next five years, with the goal to recruit more crews.