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Murrieta Firefighters Take on 9% Retirement Contribution

An agreement between the Murrieta Firefighters Association and the city will take the 9 percent employer-paid employee contribution to 0 percent pending a council vote Tuesday.

Murrieta firefighters are set to begin paying a 9 percent retirement contribution previously paid entirely by the city.

The amendment to the Murrieta Firefighters Association contract is scheduled to go before Murrieta City Council on Tuesday.

Their current labor contract does not expire until June 30, 2014. However, association members approached the city with knowledge of the current budget situation, Murrieta Firefighters Association Spokesperson Sean DeGrave told Patch Monday.

"It wasn’t really a negotiation, it was ‘we wanted to do the right thing,’” said DeGrave, an engineer/paramedic with the department. “We are not blind to what is going on.”

Under the current agreement, the city pays 9 percent of the employer-paid employee retirement contribution to California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS). The agreement takes that to 0 percent, which follows concessions taken by other city employee groups this year.

Murrieta police in July agreed to pay 6 percent of their employee retirement contribution, move to a two-tier retirement system and pay more of their health care benefits.

In September, general city employees agreed to pay 6.5 percent—8 percent by July 2013— of their contribution along with a two-year retirement system.

With a 2012-2013 fiscal year budget of $11.4 million, the Murrieta Fire Department is seeking ways to make up a $1.7-million shortfall. This is after already cutting the budget by approximately $2 million, said Murrieta fire Chief Matt Shobert.

“We have got a budget issue here in the Fire Department we are working real hard to solve,” Shobert said, when reached by phone Monday.

“We have talked about employee reductions. We have cut expenditures...and now the employes have stepped up yet again. I am humbled yet again by the professionalism and compassion to help solve the budget problem."

The Murrieta Fire Management Association, which consists of three battalion chiefs, also agreed to the concession.

As part of the agreement, the contract will be extended through 2018. The extension includes cuts taken in January 2011 that equaled 5 percent of their pay.

This latest concession is expected to save the city $314,581 in the Fire Fund this fiscal year, and an estimated $339,480 in 2013-2014.

In exchange, the city agreed to give firefighters $1,850 per year—up from $650— toward uniforms and gear.

Members of the association, which number 46, will now get a payout for the expense. Previously, firefighters would turn in their receipts and be reimbursed by the city, DeGrave said.

“It was becoming kind of a burden with receipts...that was a city request,” DeGrave said.

Murrieta firefighters are issued necessary uniforms and gear upon hiring, DeGrave explained. After that, it is up to them to maintain or replace, he said. The cost of boots can reach $400 for one type, he said.

DeGrave said 100 percent of firefighters agreed to the concession in order to continue “living within the department's means.”

“Our department has done that since 1947. With the subscription fee coming, it is just another effort by our guys to show we are in this together. We are doing our part for the community that we care deeply about.”

The subscription fee DeGrave was referring to will be charged to Murrieta residents when they are treated by Murrieta Fire Department paramedics—an effort to recoup costs of providing paramedics aboard the city's fire engines.

Under an optional subscription program, residents can pay $48 annually for coverage. Otherwise, they will be billed $350 per occurrence. The fee was approved by City Council in July and is soon expected to go into effect.

"I am really proud of the firefighters," Shobert said. "They are really stepping up to the plate. On top of cuts they are already taking, it is pretty amazing."

This article was updated at 11 p.m. Oct. 2 with the following statement sent by Dean Hale, president of the Murrieta Firefighters Association:

The Murrieta Fire Department has been trying to overcome a budget deficit that began with our National and State economy crisis. In addition to the State taking funding that was initially slated for Special Districts, Fire Departments and Local governments; our City has been utilizing our Fire Department's Reserve Fund to pay "internal service fees" since 2009 and causing a larger financial drain on our initially $13+ million dollar reserve budget.

Additionally, the decline in property taxes that the Murrieta Fire Protection District has been dealing with since the economy has driven down home prices; have forced us with finding new ways to exist in these poor economic times.

The City Council adopted a "Paramedic Subscription Fee" that the customer/citizens of our community will be charged for when they call and receive paramedic services, a service that has been free to our citizens since 2000. When this was adopted by the City Council; as a way to offset the costs of providing this vital service; the Murrieta Firefighters' agreed that we are in this along with our community. We have agreed, (outside of our contract), to pay our FULL pension contributions and offset part of the budget shortfall with our employee benefits. We are contributing more than any other labor group in the City.

Along with down staffing that has occurred since 2010; our Fire Department has been operating at 23% below past operating costs. The Murrieta Firefighters have now taken a 14% concession reduction outside of our already agreed to contract. Understanding economic hard times, the Murrieta Firefighters want to salvage the Fire Department and keep our lifesaving services to our community intact. We took an oath to serve this community and that is what we plan to continue to do. The Pride of our Firefighters is always ongoing. We live to reach out, protect and serve you.

We hope that the City Council and its administrative staff understand the sacrifice that the Murrieta Firefighters are once again making. We have been operating at 42% below what the National Fire Protection Agency recommends. We do this because the City tells us that we cannot afford any better. I hope when the economy starts to turn around that the City and their administrators begin to take a look at what it takes to provide a Fire Department what it needs to at least meet national standards.

The continued diligence and professionalism of the Firefighters of this community never ceases to amaze me. The ongoing public education programs that we pay for with our own monies, public events and training that we provide with our own time are many examples of our dedication to the Murrieta community, a community we care so much about.

It is our honor and privilege to continue to be your public servants and continue a service this community has asked of us since 1947; the oldest serving agency here in Murrieta.

I hope the community can see how much we care, not only by our words, but also by our actions.

Sam Bradstreet October 02, 2012 at 07:12 PM
What a shame that our brave firefighters have to take it in the teeth because Murrieta Taxpayers won't shell out a few more dollars to take care of them. At the same exact time, political candidates spend tens of thousands on signs and advertising all over the US. This is an American shame.
Long Time Murrietan October 02, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Employees everywhere in all types of business, government and private, have been taking pay cuts to avoid layoffs for the last five years since the economy tanked. Why should firefighters be any different. They aren't the only ones who work hard and are committed. There are countless people who would trade positions with them in a heartbeat, paycut or not.
Murrieta resident October 02, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I agree with LTM. It's an unfortunate situation, but we all need to work together to get through these tough times. I applaud the Firefighters for their decision. Thank you for what you do.
Sam Bradstreet October 02, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Because, other employees don't wake up each day and leave for work, not knowing for sure if they may have to give their LIFE for your sorry backside. Some jobs are quite different then others and firefighters and policemen are among the jobs that should not have to give up their benefits so you can go to McDonalds a few extra times this month.
Long Time Murrietian October 02, 2012 at 11:08 PM
If you check your facts, Murrieta Police and Firefighters are compensated very well when compared to other similiar agencies in southern california. They are only now starting to catch up with what other agencies have been requiring all along. I know many of these employees, they are good, hardworking people. This has nothing to do with weather they deserve it or not. If anyone deserves more benefits, it's our Military personel. They get paid squat, and risk their lives seriously every day. If your looking for a cause, this is the one.
Sam Bradstreet October 03, 2012 at 12:34 AM
The military (active duty) retirement system is arguably the best retirement deal around. Unlike most retirement plans, the Armed Forces offer a pension (technically a "reduced compensation for reduced services.") with benefits, that start the day you retire, no matter how old you are. That means you could start collecting a regular retirement pension as early as 37 years old. What's more, that pension check can grow with a cost of living adjustment each year. At 40, a twenty veteran has to have grown to at least non-commissioned officer in order to retire. He receives full healthcare benefits for the rest of his life and access to all military benefits and then at 40 can start a second career and a second paycheck......we are not always in war, and only recently have we been in war since the early seventies. Now you want to compare that retirement to a policeman or firefighter working twenty years in Murrieta.....there is no comparison. I take nothing away from our military, they deserve what they get and more........but our civil servants earn the same rights for putting their necks on the line and we treat them like scum because of one thing........unions......unions vote Democrat.......and conservatives hate them.
Long Time Murrietian October 03, 2012 at 01:30 AM
If you think our police and fire fighters here in murrieta are treated like scum, you are sadly mistaken. Why do you think hundreds of people show up to apply whenever there is a job opening in our fire and police departments. It's certainly not because they are treated like scum, but because it is a great career job. I' m confident 99% of murrieta residents have a positive view of our police and fire, and don't they are treated like scum. You must be the 1%. Just my opinion.
These are tough times and the firefighters should be applauded for their contribution. Truth be told, firefighters are the most respected public servants. PAUL ANGULO / RIVERSIDE COUNTY AUDITOR-CONTROLLER / UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN
Fauntleroy Murphy October 03, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Political signs and advertising aren't paid for with tax dollars but, they do stimulate the local economy......?
Fauntleroy Murphy October 03, 2012 at 09:44 PM
The firefighters are doing the right thing in this economy. They are willing to take in the pocketbook like the rest of the working class. To me that says a lot about the caliber of firefighters we have on our team.
Desert Dweller October 04, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Who patch where is the research. The pers constribution is roughly 27% of salary, its easy to find on pers site. Previously the employee payed 0% meaning they didn't contribute to their very good retirement. Now they are picking up part 9%, the city pays the other portion. These guys aren't saints, in fact under Jerry Brown's recently signed legislation employees will have to pay half of their contribution. Any employee that doesn't think they should pay for their pension is being rather stupid, the system needs money to survive. By all paying at least half calpers will be even stronger, nobody deserves and nobody can maintain a retirement they didn't contribute to. And yes I'm a firefighter. And I've always contributed to my retirement.
AFR October 04, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Always one in the crowd, even when a good deed is done. Just shows you the character of "Desert Dweller" and that he obviously has a personal issue with our City's Fire Department. Every city pays a different portion of a city employee's Cal PERS. It can be anywhere from 24-29%. That is the employers obligation to pay for the employee. Every city employee. Now the employee's portion is 9%, which is also payed by the employer. Our firefighters came out of their existing contract, that didn't end until 2014, to do the right thing. They volunteered to pay their entire "employee portion" of Cal PERS which is the entire 9% out of good faith and to help our F.D. budget. The legislation that you're talking about is AB340, and it's half of the overall contribution OR 12%, which ever is LOWER. For most cities, the employees will be looking at 12% but NOT until the year 2018. Our firefighters did the right thing. They came out of contract when they didn't have to and they are paying their entire 9% which is more than any other employee group in our City. So Desert Dweller, get your facts straight before you bash our fine firefighters. Way to hammer your firefighter brothers. While our City's firefighters are taking additional pay cuts, (14% in the last 2 years), I see Cal Fire is raising their fees and increasing their prices. Temecula, additional $1.77 million, up 5 percent and Menifee, additional $1.53 million, up 9 percent. I'm glad OUR firefighters are doing their part to help.
Desert Dweller October 04, 2012 at 01:53 AM
AFR, I have nothing against MFD, however this article was poorly written, employees should pay their contribution and for MFD from a calpers member it's about time. They did it when they didnt have to so good for them. Employees shouldn't expect not to pay into their retirement. It's bad all around. Cal fire employees voluntarily increased contribution from 6% to 10% soon to be 13% over the next two years so they are doing there part. I aplaud every employee that is righting the issues with calpers, but its not a major sacrifice to actually pay into your retirement.
AFR October 04, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Desert Dweller, who the hell said it was a "major sacrifice"? Why are you so bitter? You definitely have a problem with MFD. This story is about one of our city bargaining groups coming out of contract, when they didn't have to, and helping our F.D. and City out with the budget. None of the other city bargaining groups have made as many cuts and concessions as our firefighters have. That's the story, bottom line. They should be applauded and not have some bitter backstabbing brother of theirs on here talking crap.
Desert Dweller October 04, 2012 at 03:08 AM
AFR cool down, my points were that the article was poorly written because it doesn't explain the contribution process well. The rest was because comments and the article make them sound like rock stars for paying their portion. If you just want to call me a backstabber and crap talker than this chat is done. Have a great night sir.
AFR October 04, 2012 at 03:21 AM
As a firefighter talking crap about your brothers, you should be ashamed and embarrassed at yourself. That's when this chat was done!
Casey McDonald October 04, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Isn't it amazing how when we call attention to our own righteousness, it leaves such a bad taste you immediately want to spit it out of your mouth.
AFR October 04, 2012 at 04:14 AM
I'm just sick of reading these unprofessional, disrespectful attacks on our firefighters by AMR and Cal Fire employees. Doesn't matter what the article is about. This one's a perfect example. Our firefighters come out of contract and do a good thing, reach into their pockets and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars into their retirement so it'll save our F.D. budget and you still get bitter Cal Fire and AMR employees on these blogs and immediately show how miserable they are by bashing our firemen. If they are so bitter and miserable then get another job! It's not our firefighters fault. I thought all these agencies were supposed to work together?
Rob Godinho October 04, 2012 at 04:28 AM
AFR, I appreciate and understand your frustration but just remember, there are bad apples in every agency, as "Desert Dweller" so blatantly pointed out. As MFD, AMR and Cal Fire, we should all work together and be respectful towards one another, and in most cases we do. But because Cal Fire and AMR can and do, profit monetarily from the City of Murrieta, then there will always be a level of animosity towards MFD by some of these folks. They are the minority in the work place but unfortunately, they are the majority when it comes to blogging on these forums.
B. Bravo October 07, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Go to the FD station and see what they do ......
B. Bravo October 07, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I hope with the increase in their uniform allowance they buy new ones, they showed up to my house in shorts and tennis shoes when my mother was sick.. I was thinking is this a volunteer fire department ? i hope if they want to be treated like professionals they dress in a professional manner, and they charge a fee too? wow..Chief why dont you check your people!
Kevin Clark October 10, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Thanks to who ever flagged my previous response. The truth sometimes hurts so you must really be hurting. So let me get this right, if you have anything to say against the abusive public employees or FD retirement system your a bad apple? What a laugh. You fire department employees and all the others tax leaches need to get something through your heads, you need to pay your own way! get it? understand? got it figured out? Paying someone 90% of thier salary for the rest of thier live is utterly obscene especially when you haven't contributed anything to your retirement. So, what is your true salary if you recieve money for the rest of your lives? and as I wrote previously I used the salary of the director of the MFD with a salary of 162,500.00 and approximately 10,000.00 a year for heath benefits. Well, his post work salary (retirement)is going to be approximately 146,500.00 a year, over 12,000.00 a month, even if he actually worked a 40 hour week it would still be 75.00.00 an hour, not bad. And this without putting anything meaningful into it. And so for you 40+ MFD employees whom took home over 110,000.00 a year, what is your true salary? if we have to keep paying you? Face it you have been hand fed from the public trough for too long. Respectful of the tax payer is what you need to be a 9% contribution?!. Well bless your heart? At the rate in which your given retirement pay everything you contribute will gone in less than 2 years.Then who pays? VOTE no on 30 and yes on 32
Casey McDonald October 10, 2012 at 04:56 AM
Some facts for Kevin. First, every agency is different on how benefits are paid and whats included in the calculation. This is due to each Cities choice on what to offer when economies are doing well and private and public salaries grow. The reason most cities offered to pay employee retirement portions, was that when the economy was good, the Public Retirement System was allowing Cities to delay payment due to high investment returns from stock market. This allowed politicians to offer to pay for employee contribution instead of salary increases in negotiations without actually having to pay for it. Governments used dedicated funds for personal gains and now employees look like the bad guys for the debts that are being called due. In Murrieta retirement pay is based on "BASE" salary only. No overtime! your numbers are way off. I believe if I have a strong opinion about a stance, I should research all my facts to substantiate my position. This helps others to evaluate my stance based on truths and I don't look foolish. Another Fact about retirement at MFD is that you can only achieve 90 percent retirement benefit if you work 30 years. Not one Murrieta Firefighter has made 30 years to this date. The average age currently being hired is about 27 years old. That puts max benefit of 90 percent of 57 years old. Most bodies will not make it in this profession to 57 years old. Also, 90 percent is the max., 30 plus years does not increase percentage.
Kevin Clark October 10, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I read with interest your anaysis of how we got here, but not anything about if the system is flawed. However, the numbers I used are "facts" actual numbers taken from the Calif State web site published for salaries for City Murrita for 2010. available to all on the web. I'll admit few employees are eligable for the MAX (90%) but it is a correct statement and is available correct? So that is also accurate. The current stated salary for the the chief is $162,500.00 a year correct? So that is also accurate. Will he be avaialble to recieve that 90% percentage (146,500) in post work salary/ only time will tell. 90 %, 80%, 70% 60%, does it really matter after contributing nothing of substance to the system it is not sistainable. How much does that really make his actual salary for todays work? And as for "overtime", if every year your take home pay is over $100,00.00 ( not the stated salary) and is consistent year after year after year isn't that just number manipulation? I have read several different statemets from both the teachers union and the fire dept. trying to determine the exact formulations in determing post work salary,I must admit it is danting task. You seem to be the perfect cabdidate to provide them and could explain them for everyone to read. So your position is it's the stock market fault and the cities fault? not the high retirement salaries? well ok, I do not agree and if protecting my money is foolish, so be it. Oh and Calpers is 100 billion in the hole why?
Casey McDonald October 13, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Mr. Clark this last is post is much more palatable. It's easy to understand why questions are being raised about salaries and benefits in this economic climate. Searching for answers to questions is best to make informed opinions. I'm willing to discuss at anytime call me 9669478.
Jason Sweat December 22, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Fire/Police/Government workers need to get off their high horses. You guys are glorified welfare recipients. Living off the fabricated luster of 9/11 when unions started throwing around the hero word daily. At least the welfare recipients don't insult us while they screw us with statement like we decided to pay a share of our retirement because we wanted to do the right thing. You guys did it because you see the wave of government hatred coming, the fact you have to kick in half ordered by the state. You figured it was a good political move to look like a marter, typical "love me" fireman move. You guys don't risk your life, work harder, or even come close to the folks that pay you salary. Start budgeting like we in the private industry have to. May be a surprise to you guys but seventy hours happens in a week in the real world, not amonth. What are we paying property tases for if you guys are going to act like the mafia and demand another $48 bucks a year? Privatize all government employees, save this state.
woodysroundup December 28, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Jason, FYI, Most city departments work a 56 hr work week, or 240 hrs per month average. CalFire shift personnel work a 72 hr work week. Thanks

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