So, just how much money does a fire chief make?

As the campaign for and against Measure I to create a community facilities district to augment funding for Big Bear Fire wages on, one issue continues to bubble to the top — labor costs. Using tools such as Transparent California to determine paychecks for the Big Bear fire chief, firefighters and administration, those opposed to the measure claim the funds will be used to line the pockets of what they claim are overpaid staff.

Big Bear Fire Chief Jeff Willis said the comparisons used by those opposing Measure I are deceiving. The comparisons are made between years before fire department staff were working entirely under the Big Bear Fire Authority umbrella. The numbers being shared on social media saying it appears staff received raises to double their wages aren’t correct, Willis said.

The consolidation of Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District and Big Bear City Fire Department staffing under the Big Bear Fire Authority has been an ongoing process. The staff didn’t become Big Bear Fire employees until July 1, 2019. So comparing a 2017 or 2016 salary or wage listed on the Transparent California website with a 2018 figure isn’t accurate, Willis said. Those comparisons won’t be fully accurate until the 2019 numbers can be compared to 2020.

Some staff members were in transition, with part of their salaries coming from their originating agency, either the Big Bear Lake or Big Bear City departments, Willis explained. Adding the two together for a particular year comes closer to reality, but still may not provide a complete salary or wage picture when comparing to the next year, he said.

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(1) comment

Tim Shaughnessy

Measure I is not written to serve the community than rather to serve the Fire District. Chief Willis on Valentine's Day explained why the need for more revenue is necessity for the Valley. Not addressed was that there is no time limit on the measure so it may be readdressed by the public to check the situation every 4 to 5 years. This measure has an automatic bump every year! Not addressed was what will the District do with the surplus every year. Not addressed was anything about a wage freeze. Not addressed was achange to a new Mountain First Responders Union that can change the benefits to come into line with the private sector. All that was presented to the public is why the District wants and why. We all wish first responder's be paid more, but through the last 35 years the increase in pay and benefits has risen 4 times faster than the private sector. Consequently there is not enough money to sustain not only the average firefighter's pay but the benefits and retirement. Here we have Fire Fighters and Paramedics making more in pay, benefits, and retirement than the average in California. The Public Employees of California has a difficult time with understanding that there is a limit for OPM (Other people's money) uses. Blaming Prop 13 is convenient to blame, but that is not the reason that their is an issue for more money to go to First Responders, the reason is that no one says NO, it's always ask for more and use scare tactics and you will receive. Here there is not a plan of how to make cuts, wage freezes, caps on benefits, participation at a higher in retirement. What should be in this measure does not exists such as a Time Limit of 4 to 5 years with no built in increase. A limit on what goes into a savings account so that the increases in the future will be minimum. A laid out plan for the future that is more than keeping the statis quo. It is not, repeat, IT IS NOT CHEAPER TO PAY OVERTIME. Over the course of three years of overtime it would be cheaper to have hired more firemen than pay OT. When a teacher who is a Public Employee leads a group to get more money for Public Employees and thinks that's not a conflict of interest is plain old fashioned wrong. This measure is not the answer to the problem, addressing leadership of the Fire District, addressing a time limit with no bumps, laying out a complete plan for the future, addressing of new ways of recruiting, pay freeze, use of vehicles,and new ways of business. When convenient the issues are compared to off the hill departments, when questions about pay as an example and it is not favorable to off the hill then it is said that is what they have to do. A chief of three Departments with talk to make it two stations makes $370,000 plus a year. How nuts is that? We over pay up here in Big Bear Valley because no one says No. Vote No on Measure I and make those who want sharpen their pencils to comeback with a better proposal. Yes they really do need more, but this measure is not the way to go.

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