Saturday, July 24, 2010

San Diego Firefighters - Less Fight for your Buck

The local fish wrap has inadvertently performed a public service in their attempts to push the local half cent sales tax increase. To be fair, I don't know if that is really the agenda, but the wall to wall coverage they have given the issue makes it appear that they favor the tax. Regardless, they published some statistics about fire department costs in a number of large cities through out America. At first glance the numbers don't look so bad for San Diego:

Let's take a closer look at these numbers. Everyone pay attention, class is officially in session. Look at the column called sworn personnel. These are the numbers of firefighters and paramedics that will actually show up at your door to provide rescue. Notice the low numbers for San Diego? So despite comparable spending on the total budget, we actually put fewer firefighters on the streets. I have done the math for you to make the comparisons easier. Click to enlarge.

San Diego doesn't have a firefighting budget problem, we have a pay and management problem. We spend approximately the same amount per resident that comparably sized cities do. What really jumps out is the outrageous cost per sworn personnel. Our firefighting department is far and away the most expensive per sworn personnel. This mismanagement is the real reason we are idling engines. A hint as to why we have the highest expense ratio is contained in my earlier post, our firefighters are significantly over compensated, especially considering how much overtime is paid to senior firefighters.

So when asked what really caused the tragic death of Bentley Do, don't blame lack of budget for our fire department. No matter what ultimate cause is assigned, it isn't that. If people are going to blame the slow response of the fire department for this death (I am not so sure) then the root cause is the greed of the unions and the spinelessness of our politicians that allowed firefighters pay to skyrocket. It's time the city got it's moneys worth for what we pay in taxes. San Antonio gets almost double the number of personnel for only 10% more budget. Not an extra nickel to the San Diego fire department until they show they can reform their management practices.


  1. The Union-Tribune favors the sales tax increase. It's on a crusade. Here's my take on it.

  2. But Liberator, it's not fish-wrap.

    Fish-wrap is actually useful, at least for those of us who get lots of fish.