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St. Louis Firefighters Get Hosed; City Eliminates 30 Positions in First Layoff in Years

Categories: Community, News
bifir.jpg
Fighting fire with fire-ings, naturally.
St. Louis plans to fire 30 firefighters -- the most it can terminate without closing engine houses -- in anticipation of the fire department's pension fund increasing by $4.7 million next fiscal year.

The layoffs are the first time in recent memory that the city has reduced its number of firefighters. In a news release today, Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay, said that the administration was left with no other choice.

"We cannot spend money we do not have," said Rainford. "State law gives us no flexibility. So, we have to lay off firefighters so we have enough money for their pensions."

Under the proposed spending increase, the Fireman's Retirement System is set to rise by more than $7,400 per member next year. The department currently has 631 members.

In its dispatch to local media today, the mayor's office stated that it was able to avoid layoffs in the police department because Chief Dan Isom re-worked the department's budget and police have agreed to changes designed to reduce future cost increases for their pension. Likewise, civilian employees with the city have agreed to changes to their pension. Still those pensions also will increase next year by $2.5 million for police and $1.7 million for civilian employees. Those pensions also have at least double the members of the fireman's pension.

The mayor's office contends that it has met with firefighters and mediators to no avail since last summer to find a way to keep that pension from going up.

"Many of our citizens don't have jobs. Some who have jobs don't have a pension or a 401(k). It is not right to ask them to pay more in taxes or get less in services to make up for investment losses in the Fireman's Retirement System," stated Rainford.

According to the city, pension costs for firefighters have increased 254 percent since 2001 and now average $33,405 per firefighter per year, accounting for 32 percent of the department's budget.

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9 comments
Hoffa
Hoffa

Did u know that before Mayor Slays Father passed he lived in Mayor Slays home here in ST. Louis City. Well Mayor Slay requested Abbott Ambulance to transport his father to a County hospital to b treated. So this slim ball expects the City Firefighters, Cops and EMS to live n the city, pay city taxes and get no pension because they dont get social security when they retire like the rest of the world. Why didnt the Mayor use the city EMS or City hospitals. Why doesnt the city cut health care for the part time alderman jobs, cut their pay. Well when the petion comes to my house to lower the number of alderman u can bet I will have my name on the list. Did u know if u cut Firefighter jobs then the cities ISO rating could raise which would mean insurance rates would rais for all home owners n the city. Maybe the Mayor should have thought twice about borrowing from the Police and Fire pension to build Busch Stadium. It made him upset when the courts said the city had to pay the money back now. So this is retaliation on our Firefighters. If I was a firefighter I think I might have to do a work slow down or stuff like that. NO MORE SLAY BALL NO MORE SLAY BALL

Richard
Richard

The Mayors office is like the school kid on the playground that doesn't like the rules soooo he takes his ball and goes home so no one can play. They have been trying to get into the pension funds for police and fire fighters since Slay took office. Neither group nor the state of Missouri who over see the pensions wants the city to be able to get there hands into the accounts. This, because the Mayors office has a huge problem with funds disappearing that it has access to. A few years ago they refused to contribute to the pension plans unless they could have access to the funds. The contributions were in lieu of insurance and cost of living increases. Average wages have been maintained at 30,000 - 40,000 dollars. Fire fighters have No insurance once they retire or are injured. The insurance they do get on the job forces them to pick up half the tab of services rendered. This is for spouses and Children as well. A Fire Fighter with 1 spouse and 1 child has approximately 400 dollars taken out of each pay check. When Fire Fighters and the State of Missouri complained about the Mayors refusal to contribute and that the penalties would be staggering. The Mayors response was take us to court if you don't like it. When the City lost the court battle the amount owed due to penalties was staggering. Still they didn't pay until the state started looking at criminal litigation. During this time they payed for things like new flower pots repainting of fire hydrants and new iron light fixtures with the money that was to be contributed. To make things worse they pushed for a tax hike to pay for wage increases that passed by a vote of the people. Only to place the received funds into a general revenue account that they used for there own needs. At the beginning of last year alone there was over a million dollars in the account. That money was used to allow children on the North side to swim free in public pools . That money in turn filtered back down again into the City coffers to be spent in what ever means they saw fit. A neat ploy. Even I think is genius.The problem in the end is obligation. The Fire Fighters have agreed to lose wages, about 200 - 300 dollars each this year alone. To avoid lay offs only to be conned by the Mayors office yet again. These tricks are the same games played by Cities such as New Orleans and Detroit. Fire Fighters are like any other Human entity. People are going to help family and friends in times of need and disaster before they come to the rescue of those they have no obligation. I really believe the general public needs to stand up and support those who have come to the rescue for them without question time and again. Because boys and girls we now have 30 less responders. Just to put that into perspective. The city only has 12 ambulances on at any given time for 300,000 residents over 1 million people during the average work week. That is two persons per ambulance. 34 fire units with four persons each for all other emergency calls. In 2010 that was approximately 200,000 Fire and EMS calls for the year. One question Mayor Slay and Jeff Rainford. Where are you going to be when the shit hits the fan ? I bet its gonna be a hell of a lot better then where the rest of us are.

Bill Hannegan
Bill Hannegan

The 2 million dollars of stimulus money St. Louis County is sending toFleischman-Hillard for anti-smoking ads could keep all City firefightersworking. Dooley should cancel the Fleischman-Hillard contract that createsno jobs and send the money instead to the City in order to save 30. Wasn'tthe stimulus supposed to be about jobs anyway?

Paul
Paul

Here's a serious question -- does anybody know how many fires firefighters are actually putting out on their shifts? How much of their time is spent actually working vs. sleeping & working out & playing Xbox? How many of them work 3 days a week for full benefits & pension and then get a second job on top of it?

BE
BE

Here's a plan! Vote Republican next time so they can come in and just close down all of St. Louis, fire everyone, you know... like a school with bad teachers. Then when all hell breaks loose they can declare marshall law and shoot us all in the streets like they've always wanted to do. Just think of how nice the area would be, after the war, when the rich people could move around freely without having to worry about being mugged by any of the people they've oppressed into such pits of desperation! Oh how wonderful, joyous and Heavenly it will be for the conservatives who hoard money and starve their neighbors! What a great day it will be for those who call themselves "Conservative Christians" once they've killed all of the poor and needy! Nevermind that God's wrath is pointed at "The ones who destroy the earth" ... no no, forget all of that! the rich will be here with all of their Nuclear power, soaking up the rays and enjoying the world which they've destroyed... all in the name of their own will to see desperate people crushed. What a wonderful place Missouri has become due to those who will most definitely be told "I never knew you".

Ron Swanson
Ron Swanson

Please stop trying to act like firefighters have it rough. It is practically impossible to get a job as a firefighter in this city unless you happen to know someone. Why is that? Because being a firefighter is a CUSHY gig where you get paid to sleep and dick around at the firehouse and occasionally go spray water at something.

The starting salaries aren't that high, but not so bad considering you don't need a college education. However with seniority comes better wages. And then of course we have the real issue -- the pensions are RIDICULOUS.

St. Louis firefighters can retire with partial pensions as young as 38 and retire with full pensions at 48. Injured firefighters get full disability pensions even if they are capable of doing other work. Firefighters get two weeks of sick pay each per year. When they don’t use it, they can save it up and get checks and bigger pensions when they retire.

This is just NUTS. And don't forget that firemen routinely cheat the system by working overtime during their final year and jacking up their pensions even more. Of course try and close this loophole and they all threaten to strike. Corrupt politicians conspired w/ unions to promise checks that the city can't cash. This is the EXACT same shit that happened in Wisconsin w/ the teachers.

This whole "firefighters are heroes" bullshit needs to stop now. It is a lie. They're just greedy and lazy and drunk off of sucking on the government teat. They've actually convinced themselves that they are entitled to their ridiculous pensions.

Are firefighters important? Yes. Do they deserve good salaries? Yes. But this pension shit has gotten out of control. And of course, the greedy pig firefighters choose layoffs over re-negotiating their pensions to be reasonable. Way to look after your own there, guys.

HOFFA
HOFFA

Firefighter dont get paid for what they do . They get paid for what they might have to do. Y dont u try to b away from ur family on hollidays and 24 to 48 hrs at a time. How about lets make them volunteer again and see how long it takes to get to ur emergency then. I bet when u go home from ur desk job u can sit at the dinner table and tell ur family all about seeing death and breathing in toxic caner air. I bet ur wrist hurt from pushing paper all day or sitting around at a meeting table for 10min. I bet when u have to pee u get up and go. Well how about going to a fire at 3 in the morning and being their for 12 hrs and not getting eat or pee. Im glad im not a Fireman but Im sure proud they r here for my family when I need them. At least I hope they r their. I hear they are going to close station 36 right here n my neighborhood.

HOFFA
HOFFA

Mr Swanson #1 U have to take a test which the same Mayor office doing the layoffs does the hiring Duh. # 2 Yeah they sometimes get to sleep on a 24hr shift. Do u get to sleep at night after ur 9 to 5 job? Do u get to go home and c ur family after ur 9 to 5 job? Well firefighter dont . They may not even make it to come home. And they have to c the things u dont such as ur family members guts laying all over the street.These men and women take care of us when we call them so its time for us to care for them. Did u know that firefighter cant even afford insurance after they retire and most of them suffer from cancer or mental stress of seeing death. And as far as college u r wrong again they have to go to college to earn their EMT and Paramedic and fire engeneiring. And they train every day and take classes monthly. They r exposed to new chemicals that dont have names yet every day.The mayor borrowed money from the pension to help fund the Busch stadium project. Then he refused to pay it back after a court battle with ur tax money. Then n another court battle with ur tax money he lost suppreme court said u pay it back now. The city knows what they have to pay for theses pensions but they give tax breaks to so many companies that they cant afford to pay the pension like they r suppose to. This isnt a Union thing. But if they didnt have a Union then the city would have already made these guys slaves with min wages. Do u think a part time alderman should make more than our Cities EMT and Paramedics. Well they do. And the part time alderman get benifits like pension and health care. . So do u really think theses firefighters are greedy. Maybe u should do some research before u speak. I have and Im not a Firefighter but I support them. I sure hope ur family doesnt need them when they get laid off. And if you do then I hope it takes a long death defying time to get their u little prick.

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