Independent Budget Analyst: San Diego Fire-Rescue Blows Through Budget

San Diego, Calif.- IVN has learned communities will likely be seeing a budget squeeze due to historically high overtime increases for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, according to the mid-year budget report by the city’s independent budget analyst.

The report states that for fiscal year 2018, the fire-rescue department was $12.6 million over budget, a dramatic jump from 2017, when it was $2.4 million over budget.

Monica Munoz with the San Diego Fire-Rescue department sent IVN the following statement, “we can never predict what overtime costs will be. SDFD received approval to conduct three academies per year beginning this year and hiring will help cut back on mandatory overtime (to backfill for vacations, sick time, etc.) but it won’t eliminate overtime all together. For a department that operates on a 24 hour basis, nothing can eliminate overtime entirely.”

Independent Budget Analyst Mid-Year report

The reasons given by the city for the dramatic budget shortfall:

  • MOU changes negotiated by the mayor’s office and firefighter union,
  • Strike team deployments to fight fires and,
  • weather related events and staff shortfalls

MOU Changes

Of the $12.6 million over budget, the report states $5-6 million was the result of the renegotiated MOU in 2016.

A four-year agreement between the city and firefighter union, the agreement essentially gave firefighters a lower threshold for when they hit overtime. Previously firefighters had to work 212 hours in a 28-day cycle to receive pay and a half. The 2016 agreement knocked those hours back considerably to 56 hours a week.

At the time of the agreement Mayor Faulconer said, “These agreements are fair, and they’re a good deal for our taxpayers and our neighborhoods. These agreements invest in the dedicated and hardworking city employees that I am so proud of as mayor.”

The new contract left out death and disability benefits for new hire firefighters. It has yet to be addressed. That issue, the department claims is leading to fewer applicants. Jesse Conner, the President of the local firefighters union said in an interview with KUSI, “We can’t keep people here in the City of San Diego, they’re going onto other departments. San Diego doesn’t offer a competitive benefits pacakge, we don’t offer a pension anymore because of prop. b, and we’re the only municipality in the country that doesn’t offer the pension benefit and with that comes death and disability, so that’s a big issue.”

City Council Districts Likely To Trim Budgets

The fire overtime budget bust will likely mean the mayor’s office will be asking each district to trim about 3% off its balance sheet.

Lora Fleming with Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry’s office noted, “The Mayor will present a budget which will address the shortfall and potential department and service cuts to balance the budget.  The City Council will then have an opportunity to provide their feedback.