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Monday, November 22, 2010

Is Portland paying more for retired cops than current ones?

A frustrated reader asked us a while back whether the City of Portland was paying more to retired police officers and firefighters than it was to those currently on the police and fire forces. We've finally gotten around to looking at that question, and the answer appears to be no -- not yet.

According to this document -- a disclosure the city made when it took out a huge short-term loan to pay police and fire pension benefits this past summer -- the city was expecting that its police and fire pension fund was going to spend $107.4 million in the year ending June 30, 2011. Of that amount, about $4 million is being put aside for the pensions of recently hired police and firefighters, who are now covered by the state pension system; that leaves $103.4 million being spent currently on benefits to retired and disabled officers under the city's reckless pay-as-you-go system.

Who is in that retiree group? According to the city's administrative rules, only permanent sworn officers are members of the pension fund:

(A) Those sworn permanent employees of the Bureau of Fire and Rescue having the job classifications of Fire Fighter, Fire Fighter Specialist, Fire Fighter Communications, Fire Lieutenant, Fire Training Officer, Staff Fire Lieutenant, Fire Captain, Fire Training Captain, Fire Battalion Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, Division Fire Chief, City Fire Chief, Fire Inspector I, Fire Inspector II, Fire Inspector I Specialist, Staff Fire Captain, Fire Lieutenant Communications, Harbor Pilot, Assistant Fire Marshal, Assistant Public Education Officer and EMS Coordinator;

(B) Those permanent sworn employees of the Bureau of Police having the job classifications of Police Officer, Police Sergeant, Police Detective, Criminalist, Police Lieutenant, Police Captain, Police Commander, Deputy Police Chief, Assistant Police Chief, and Police Chief.

How much is the city spending in current salaries to officers in those categories, presently on the force, this year? Here are some figures that we pulled out of the current year's budget. When in doubt as to whether a position was covered by the pension plan, such as when the title didn't exactly match up to the one on the official list just quoted, we included it:

TitleNumberBudgeted salaries
EMS Program Manager1$ 92,724
Fire Battalion Chief131,507,812
Staff Fire Battalion Chief2246,744
Fire Captain323,217,344
Staff Fire Captain4416,136
Fire Chief1169,020
Deputy Fire Chief5662,230
Fire Division Chief2287,302
Fire Fighter44232,214,648
Fire Fighter Specialist8612,276
Fire Inspector242,010,895
Sr. Fire Inspector6573,240
Fire Inspector/Specialist10909,342
Fire Investigator7648,451
Fire Lieutenant1049,297,363
Staff Fire Lieutenant7651,383
Fire Marshal1143,652
Assistant Fire Marshal2244,296
Fire Training Officer4355,159
Harbor Pilot7621,464
Assistant Public Education Officer184,204
TitleNumberBudgeted salaries
Police Captain10$ 1,199,164
Police Chief1183,852
Assistant Police Chief3447,652
Police Commander7919,764
Police Criminalist171,422,966
Police Detective957,862,499
Police Lieutenant242,494,016
Police Officer70049,226,244

If you add up all those salaries, you get a grand total of around $118.7 million -- and that's not including overtime, I don't think. Overtime probably tacks another $25 million to $30 million onto those base salary figures. And so no, Virginia, Portland's not spending more on retired police and firefighters than on current ones. The ratio's something like 3-to-2 current-to-retired. But the day when the retirees catch up and get ahead may not be too far off.

Comments (9)

But wait, the city took out a loan to pay pension benefits? And now Randy wants a loan for BDS to get new computers and Nick wants a loan to pay for park services?

This is like paying your bills with your credit card: one or two payments once in awhile won't hurt, but if you're constantly whipping out the plastic you are either in dire straits or are financially incompetent.

I assume those are just salaries? Then you'd need to add another 35-40% for benes.

So the avg Fire Fighter gets $72,884 and avg Police Officer gets $70,323 per year?

Why do we have 104 Fire Lt ($89,398/yr)? That's one for every 4.25 fire fighters?

"Why do we have 104 Fire Lt ($89,398/yr)? That's one for every 4.25 fire fighters?"

Because thanks to Randy and the Firefighters Union every Fire Truck needs it's own LT to run things, silly. And every three trucks need a Captain.

Whatsamatta U don't like firemen?

Ya gotta love the seven harbor pilots.

At least there is no magic asterisk representing potential loss in stocks for a funded plan, on top of what we can sort of measure today, for the tier one and tier two safety workers who are or will eventually retire. The ability to measure an expense today and measure it for future periods, today, is quite a different question than whether a pay decision is wise or foolish.

If any tier three safety worker wants to take their pay, no matter how it is characterized, and invest it or spend it as they wish they can insist on opting out of the plan "offered" by the "independent" state PERS.

You also gotta love the $$89,000 for each harbor pilot, not including their benefits.

I've got my boaters license and a 100 ton license-I'd love to get $125,000 a year without even the overtime. Sign me up, Randy.

Then you'd need to add another 35-40% for benes.

Maybe current medical, but not for retirement. As noted in the post, Portland doesn't put anything aside currently for officers' retirement.

"but not for retirement."

Foolish me, I thought taxpayers made the PFDR contribution like we do for PERS.

God, please let this thing reach tipping point when both Randy and Sam are in office. I wanna see who they're gonna blame.

I suppose the big O doesn't dwell much on this because the info isn't in the form of an upbeat PR release from city hall.

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