Tell me about those Firefighter layoffs

It has come to my attention how some think SBTC has been contacted by the city to not write about the firefighter layoffs (Long Beach Herald: Happy holidays — you’re laid off!). That is not the case whatsoever. I’ve been avoiding this topic because I honestly don’t know much about it. Yes, I understand the importance of having firefighters and I hate hearing about layoffs, but most of the comments that I read are made from emotions.

Also, when it comes to tax-paying jobs, I am very mixed on how to react. I  see so many people in my life being priced out of Long Island because of all these salaries (firefighter, police, government & school salaries). The taxes are just too damn high! So with that, I am just not sure how to feel.

What that, I ask you:

  • How many firefighters do we have?
  • How many firefighters do we need?
  • How does it compare to similar communities?
  • What are the salaries? Overtime?
  • Being that they were being paid by a federal grant, how would keeping these jobs effect me since the grant is over?

If you can convince me either way (pros vs cons of these layoffs), please write in the comments.

 

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90 thoughts on “Tell me about those Firefighter layoffs”

  1. Off topic, but what you wrote made me want to comment on this…

    “Also, when it comes to tax-paying jobs, I am very mixed on how to react. I see so many people in my life being priced out of Long Island because of all these salaries (firefighter, police, government & school salaries). The taxes are just too damn high!”

    Add to that – no one retires; which makes it harder for recent graduates to get a job on Long Island. So not only are people priced out, but the jobs are scarce, and the positions aren’t opening up to let new blood in.

    It really seems like the only job available for people on Long Island is being a teacher or a cop. I know I’m a small sample, but I have never – and I really mean never – met a girl on Long Island in the last year that wasn’t a teacher.

  2. Had to laugh at the last sentence – 100% accurate for me too (I’m a male in my late 20s).

    I understand the City cannot afford new expenses. And I doubt it is an either/or type of thing…but I would much rather have these young, dedicated* fire/emergency personnel than the cops and beach lieutenants making crazy $$$ and racking up ridiculous overtime.

    Here’s a decent article summarizing some of the issues facing LB: http://thelongbeachsun.com/2014/12/15/massive-overtime-large-salaries-growing-debt-fire-department-layoffs/

    *I don’t know all of them but the ones I do know were born/raised in LB.

  3. Thanks Jay, that explains a lot. So a 20 man roster will most likely result in more overtime pay, so we basically better off with those 5 still on staff to avoid the “zero margin for error” factor. That’s what I am getting at.

    Also what is going to happen once (if) iStar is finished? or with the lifting of houses. What was once a one story, is now three stories. Do you calculate the department’s needs based on population density or does height increase factored in as well?

  4. Well Said Jay!

    So does anybody think the city will reply or come up with something more than “the grant money ran out”?

    Since the city has been funding so much with grants the last few years will they soon say well we cant pave the roads, pick up garbage, clean the streets, Etc since the grants have run out.

    Now that all being said there is one question unanswered by Jay in my mind. While I realize that the city may and likely (if not certainly) will incur OT spending now that these firefighters have been laid off are there any long term savings to be gleaned in the form of pensions and benefits that wont be paid out. That is a part of the financial picture as well and in many cases paid out for a longer period of time than the salary of a person.

  5. Thanks again Jay!

    I didn’t think about the retirement tier and the other financial considerations of what would need to be paid out immediately or that the OT would be at that Higher rate thus increasing pensions and probably payouts for the unused vacation time Etc. of those soon to retire.

    I am with you on this just had those lingering questions.

    Is there any statistics kept on the times for the first Volunteer company (not counting chiefs) to arrive from time of alarm or on the number of volunteers who turn out for the average alarm?

  6. I’ll tell you what the paid guys saved an 83 year old In cardiac arrest … He was dead … They brought him back en route to hospital… While they were gone, another call came in, volunteers took over ten minutes to even show up to the ambulance and that patient a 50 year old ended up passing away before he arrived at the hospital… It’s only a matter of time literally and figuratively unfortunately for us those minutes will be a matter of life and death

  7. LB is obviously a unique place what with all the existing highrises, higher ones to come and a highly transient portion of the population with not the same roots and allegiances to the city as might be expected elsewhere.

    I’m dead set against overpaid, underworked municipal employees who work the system to enhance their OT and pensions.

    LB is rife with examples.

    But when it comes to the FD we absolutely need professional people who know what they are doing and who can respond as quickly as possible.

    Volunteers alone simply can’t fill the bill here. In the case of an emergency at 4:00 AM their response time necessarily will be longer.

    We constantly hear of examples of city employees who are being paid outrageous salaries for doing very little. Can’t someone in authority curb these abuses and meanwhile assure the safety of our residents by properly staffing the paid FD?

    I smell a rat here. Something doesn’t seem right. Politics is at play somehow although I can’t put my finger on it.
    But it’s scandalous that it’s being done with the safety of the citizens at stake.

    Anthony , Jay, Ed, Allison, John, Eddie, CAVE, WE Tom!

    It’s time for you to stand up. Get out the pitchforks and torches for the march on City Hall!

    Organize that third party and throw the rascals out!

  8. What no one realizes or even mentions is these very important facts:

    1) the city of long beach is the only, the one and only town, city or village on all of Long Island that has a paid fire department. garden city does have one but they are phasing it out. We do not need a paid fire department. We can phase it out like garden city did and replace the EMT service with one similar to North Shore Hospitals service and we would have zero cost to taxpayers- yes zero!

    2) in the 1970’s and 80’s when long beach had many many more actual fires the LBFD had 4 lt’s and 20 firemen. Why do we have so many more now when we have less fires? Do we really need 1 lt for every firefighter? That’s a complete waste of money.

    3) in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s the paid fire department would respond to calls with three trucks- 2319 (ambulance with 2 fireman on board), 2343 (pumper with 2 fireman on board) and 2362 (ladder truck with one fireman on board to drive). Today the paid FD only responds with 2319 and 2343. Why do we need more firefighters if there are less trucks go to calls?

    Again we are the only town with a paid FD? What does everyone see that LB doesn’t? And we also average between 10-15 fires a year- that’s about one a month!

    Why don’t we just get rid of the paid FD all together and resolve it with a full time EMT ambulance service for less cost? Let the volunteers handle the fires like the rest of Long Island!

    And don’t give the line “you can’t compare LB to other towns.” That is a lame excuse.

    I feel bad for the guys being laid off but I think it doesn’t go far enough. Get rid of the entire force!

  9. Question for Todd, where did you hear that an EMS system like NSUH EMS was taking over??? EMS is handled by Nassau County Police Department’s Emergency Ambulance Bureau

  10. I agree…it seems the first page of salaries top to bottom are all cops (and I have a lot of cops in my family)…granted they have a dangerous job…but not more dangerous than our veterans who have bad guys shooting to kill them all the time…I remember when I was a vet I made a little bit more than minimum wage. I noticed that many of them on the first page ranged from $250k to $600k per year…and we have to lay off minimum salaried folks…it makes you think si!

  11. Here is an example of mismanagement. As Jay so aptly illustrates, all is not what it appears to be.

    In a bogus effort to appear financially prudent, the City cuts the headcount of the few truly vital employes on whom its taxpayers depend. But will the move truly save dollars? Perhaps not. Certainly not if manning requirements remain. The vacancies will only be covered at overtime by senior employees.

    Instead of “throwing a bone” to critics of the City’s tax-borrow-and-hire policies, how about looking for real places to cut costs? Maybe we don’t need the judge’s kid playing “community affairs czar”. Perhaps we don’t need three assistant city managers. Maybe we don’t need another layer of hacks running the Rec.

    If there’s one thing I and my tenants expect for the $80 I pay each day in City taxes, it’s fire protection.

    Stop the crap. Have you hired so many political hacks that you’ve run out of money to pay for vital employees?

  12. Todd,
    You fail to mention the most important fact.
    Our budget for cross trained fire medics is lower than many volunteer fire districts, every one of them has a much lower call volume. Why are their budgets so high if they have no salaries? Where is all the money going.
    In long beach you know where it’s going. To the salaries of the garunteed to respond career staff.
    Many volunteer department also now have paid personnel, that are trained below the career state standard.
    Also fire based Ems has been shown by many sources to be the most efficient. Only in comparison to volunteer response is private entity emergency ambulance superior. Having trained personnel highly trained in fire/medical/rescue response is the best response for 911 emergency. And by these personnel being crossed trained it limits your total number of employees needed.

    Oh and check out this article written by Long Island volunteer firefighters

    http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-158/issue-12/departments/volunteers-corner/what-if-you-had-a-fire-and-nobody-came.html

  13. @Jay…”Yet another quirk in the tracking of volunteer personnel response stems from the fact that if multiple calls are going on at the same time, any volunteer that scans in for any one of these calls is credited with attending all of them. So, at least in terms of the volunteer attendance system in place within the LBFD, you can be in two (or more) places at one time.”

    Wow. How is this legal?

  14. Get off the welfare, here is the article copied and pasted from fire engineering

    WHAT IF YOU HAD A FIRE AND NOBODY CAME?
    12/01/2005

    BY RORY J. THOMPSON
    WHAT IF YOU HAD A FIRE AND nobody came? Although that’s a little far-fetched, it could happen at any time.
    “I will tell you this off the record; if you quote me, I will deny ever having said it, but there are billions-that’s billions with a ‘B’-of dollars’ worth of real estate on Long Island that is protected from fire by a whim,” according to a high-ranking Long Island, New York, fire official who understandably didn’t want to be named.
    His assertion is right on the mark: Unless someone lives in the incorporated Long Island communities of Long Beach and Garden City, homes and property are protected by volunteer firefighters who don’t have to come to a burning house if they don’t want to. There’s no sanction for failing to show for any particular fire call. No one is taken to task for missing a big fire, unless you count the inevitable razzing that greets those members who show up at the firehouse after the flames are out and the trucks and gear have been repacked. And despite the popularity and endurance of the volunteer fire service, it’s a situation that’s getting worse.
    DWINDLING NUMBERS
    One major problem affecting the fire service is that more and more, younger recruits can no longer afford to stay in many suburban communities because of rising housing costs.
    “It’s difficult to keep volunteers. If I had to guess, I’d say the turnover rate is every four to five years,” says Eric Schields, a volunteer firefighter in Baldwin, New York, where he once served as chief in the town’s volunteer department. He recently retired as a captain in the paid Garden City (NY) Fire Department.
    Schields has seen it happen again and again: “Kids join up, go through their training, finish college, meet a girl, want to get married, and then can’t afford to live in the town,” he says, summing up the frustrations of a growing number of fire departments.
    But even as the number of fire calls has been dropping steadily in recent years, so, too, has the number of people willing to sign up as volunteer firefighters and ambulance technicians. Now, the firefighters who are still available are starting to cover neighboring towns as well as their own.
    “I’ve seen the re-toning [of fire calls] and mutual-aid calls growing,” says Chief Peter Meade, assistant fire marshal for Fire and Rescue Services in Long Island’s Nassau County, an affluent area just east of New York City. “A lot of our shortcomings are being covered by mutual aid. A lot of departments are willing to go on mutual aid to cover other departments.”
    What that means is, if a community can’t field enough volunteer firefighters for a big fire, a call goes out to neighboring towns to send over trucks and personnel. Although years ago a mutual-aid call was a rare event, more and more departments are sounding the alarm, especially during daytime hours when the volunteers are at work.
    TO THE RESCUE
    The same holds true for the rescue companies, which run the bulk of ambulance calls for the suburban volunteer fire departments. One former Long Island chief, who also requested anonymity, conceded he sometimes had trouble gathering a crew for middle-of-the-day ambulance calls, as in the case of Kathy, below.
    My wife’s friend Kathy was out walking the dog a few months back when she stepped on a broken patch of sidewalk, fell down, and dislocated her shoulder. In agonizing pain, she made her way back to the house, where she let the dog loose in the fenced-in yard, sat down, and called her dad for help. He lives three towns away.
    As luck would have it, my wife Pattie happened to call minutes later, and on hearing of Kathy’s injury, rushed right over. Since she is the wife of a firefighter, Pattie knew this was serious and called the ambulance. And then the waiting began.
    First, the local police showed up and agreed they should wait for the ambulance. Then Kathy’s dad arrived. As all this was going on, Pattie heard the chatter over the cop’s radio that the ambulance had a driver but no medical technician. The cop offered to take Kathy in his patrol car, but Pattie knew that would mean an agonizing stretch waiting in the emergency room, and vetoed the idea. After a second re-tone of the alarms and still no tech, my wife blurted out to the cop, “This is why we need a paid department.”
    HIGH-PRICED COVERAGE
    Like many other suburban communities, Long Island’s population has grown in recent years. Those who were born there tend to stay there and raise families of their own. The quality of life is good; nice beaches abound; there’s plenty of shopping and golf; schools are generally well ranked nationally; and although the cost of living is high, good-paying jobs in New York City are a train ride away. Yet one area that is losing ground is the volunteer fire service. Those who were the backbone of this efficient, professional group are retiring, dying off, or moving away-and they’re not being replaced.
    “I instituted a policy a while back where FireCom [which dispatches 46 Nassau County fire departments] will alert the Nassau County Police Ambulance to start heading in if we can’t get a crew,” the ex-chief mentioned above confided. “This way, we know someone is on the way to help should the volunteers come up short. It’s an effective stopgap measure, and it may be a portent of things to come.”
    PAY-PER-CALL
    Williamstown, Massachusetts, has been paying its “volunteer” firefighters for a number of years on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. Their procedures may well serve as a template for volunteer fire departments facing a drop-off because the firefighters and ambulance technicians are busy working second jobs.
    “This all got started back a number of years ago. The issue came up when the firemen had no turnout gear. They might’ve had a coat but nothing else, back in the 1920s or 1930s,” says Williamstown Chief Craig Pedercini. The firefighters asked the town if there was some way to compensate them for clothing that was damaged in a fire, according to the chief. The pay-per-call rate started at about 25 cents or 50 cents an hour.
    Currently, members of the “call-department,” as it’s known, are paid $10 an hour for each call to which they respond. Firefighters are paid at the end of June, covering the period from December through June, and around December 1, covering July 1 to the end of November.
    According to Pedercini, this system has never been promoted as an incentive to join. “Prospective members come in after talking with other firefighters. But we never push [the financial aspect]; we may mention it later, during recruiting,” he said. However, recruits are told, “If you’re here for the money, you’re in the wrong business,” Pedercini says.
    IT’S HERE ALREADY
    Still, some fire departments are ahead of the curve. “Many departments have had paid staff for years, most of whom serve as ‘firehousemen’ and double up as chauffeur of the ambulance or first-due engine,” says Nassau County’s Chief Meade. “Other departments-such as Baldwin, Jericho, and Lawrence-Cedarhurst [all on Long Island], among others-have hired paid EMS responders (mostly for daytime responses) because of daytime call volume and the time requirements for each EMS call.”
    Lawrence-Cedarhurst is a good case in point; it was the first volunteer fire department in Nassau County to have paid emergency medical service responders, in 1995, according to Chief Ed Koehler. If the ambulance crew is in the firehouse, it can be at the scene within three minutes of being notified, Koehler says.
    The community began slowly, starting with one paid medical technician being on call a day. The department now has paid coverage Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
    “They roll to everything,” Koehler says of his rescue crew, including general alarms of fire, where they stand by in case a firefighter gets hurt. The program is working very well, he notes, and the department would like to expand the program and the coverage.
    Such coverage doesn’t come cheap, but the department makes sure it’s included in the annual budget. The fire department is incorporated, according to Koehler, and contracts out its fire protection and rescue services to Cedarhurst, Lawrence, and North Lawrence. When the program started, increases were built in to cover the cost of a paid EMS, Koehler says. The department is considering charging nonresidents who use the ambulance’s services to help defray costs, but there will never be an additional charge to local taxpayers. The program is getting a good response, the chief says.
    SPREADING NATIONALLY
    Adding paid members to a volunteer fire department is growing. Jim Wilson, chief of Vashon Island (WA) Fire and Rescue, has added a number of paid members in recent years.
    It was the culmination of an eight-year, grassroots effort by volunteer members asking for ‘relief,’ he says, and was also identified as a major goal of the department’s strategic plan.
    Although such an undertaking can help in getting rescuers to calls faster-response times improved by more than four minutes per call, according to Wilson-it’s not without its risks. It’s the single most controversial and potentially divisive organizational change, he notes.
    Although fire departments are known for their camaraderie and teamwork, they are also bound by decades of tradition and do not take change lightly. While Chief Wilson extols the benefits of his new hires-“In addition to the obvious benefits, the career staff assumes responsibility for all the mundane tasks such as apparatus checks, washing vehicles, scrubbing toilets, mowing lawns, inspections, smoke detector installations, and all other drudgery”-such a move carries a price that involves more than just money.
    “Do not underestimate the power of ego and/or jealousy,” the chief says. “They are powerful human emotions. Take considerable time to plan and execute the change, and be fully prepared for acrimony.”
    WHAT PRICE SAFETY?
    If paying some volunteer firefighters doesn’t seem like such a bad idea if they’re guaranteed to actually show up when needed, you might want to crunch some numbers first.
    According to Jim Olivo, village auditor for Garden City, New York, that community has budgeted a little more than $4,447,000 for fire protection services this year, up from $4,084,000 for the 2004-2005 fiscal year. This covers 36 paid firefighters and chiefs, as well as budget line items for the department’s volunteers. The paid firefighters average about $60,000 in base pay annually after five years, but the budget also takes into consideration benefits, overtime, and higher pay for officers.
    The Lawrence-Cedarhurst (NY) Fire District has an annual budget this year of a little more than $397,000 for fire protection services, and the part-time medical technicians (who get no benefits) are paid out of that. Last year’s budget was $382,000, but it should be kept in mind that except for the EMS teams, the community is protected by an all-volunteer firefighting force.
    At Vashon Island (WA) Fire and Rescue, Chief Wilson is struggling with rising overtime spending. The department had budgeted $392,000 for wages this year, with an additional $17,500 for overtime contingency. But as of July 1, it had already spent $29,308 on overtime. He noted that overtime, because of the cumulative accrual of vacation and sick leave, “is killing us.” In addition, with only eight employees covering four shifts, any prolonged illness or disability pushes the system to the edge. His department has reached (and probably exceeded) the logical point at which it needs and can afford to hire a ninth employee and move to a three-shift schedule.
    There has been some talk (and a significant amount of political crowing) about giving volunteer firefighters tax breaks, to encourage recruitment and retention. Last January, Suffolk County, New York, Executive Steve Levy filed legislation allowing firefighters and EMS volunteers who owned co-ops to receive the same 10-percent exemption on their property tax bills as those who own their own homes. In April, New York Senator Chuck Schumer proposed giving tax credits to volunteers across the country in recognition of their service.
    But if past history is any indication, it won’t amount to much. In 2002, amid much publicity, the Nassau County Legislature proposed a tax break for volunteer firefighters and ambulance technicians. When all the noise died down and the smoke had cleared, the actual amount of savings on one firefighter’s annual tax bill would have been a whopping $17.
    • • •
    Many of the nation’s volunteers are nearing the breaking point. Overworked and overused, they’re responding to too many EMS calls in which the “aided” may be looking for nothing more than a free ride to the hospital, trying to bypass a stint in the emergency waiting room.
    It’s just a matter of “when” and not “if” they back the ambulance into the firehouse for good and let someone get paid to do the work volunteers now do for free. The question is, who’s going to end up paying, and how much? ■
    ■ RORY J. THOMPSON is a 35-year-veteran of and public information officer for the Rockville Centre (NY) Volunteer Fire Department and a freelance writer who frequently covers the fire service. He received the Nassau County Fire Commission’s Gold Medal of Valor.

  15. NCPD is one option. The other is the city contracting with NSUH for ambulances at each firehouse to respond to EMS calls. The EMTS are not employees of the city. The only cost to the city would be housing the ambulance. A win win for all of us. And the city could negotiate revenue sharing from and instead of costing taxpayer we have a revenue stream.

  16. I think It’s very interesting that the people who are pro dismantling the career fire service are mostly volunteer firemen. The citizens of Long Beach are clearly enraged by the serious threat this poses to our community while the volunteers are rejoicing. It disgusts me.

  17. “Jack” Not true Not true at all. Many times there is no response from Long Beach Volunteers. After 7 minutes have passed the next step is to alert surrounding towns for help. Atlantic Beach, Island Park, and Pt. Lookout provide ambulances for Long Beach on a regular basis. These responses = lost revenue for the city and a delayed response.
    4-6 minutes of a cardiac event could lead to “clinical death” Every minute lowers chances of survival by 10%

    As far as fires………. In West Atlantic Beach on May 8th 2014 a house was lost. The LBPFA does not respond to to that area. The first responding truck from LB arrived in 18 minutes!!!!! This would be the needed back up the 3 career guys. 18 minutes!!!!!! Department records do not show they responded at all.

  18. Todd, way to completely misread an article and to pick single lines to try to express your point.
    Bottom line is, the rate of return for career cross trained career firefighters is worth it. The value is there and you can’t argue that. They are well trained and respond immediatly to any type of emergency.
    Todd, where are you a firefighter or an EMT?

    They are about 5 percent of the budget and and the second highest revenue source in the entire city. they are underutilized and mismanaged by volunteer based leadership. I don’t think the taxpayers have an issue with what they are getting. paid firemen cost about 180 dollars per year per household. 50 cents a day for professional trained fire and medical response is well worth it.

    People have to open their eyes and look at the news, notice all the pictures of these very advanced fires all around Long Island. Do you think there is a magical bubble around long beach that protects it from these fires? Having an immediate response from trained firefighters limits the loss of life and property damage. Many small fire don’t become the big ones because of those guys.

  19. I am new to Long Beach, I moved to the west end less then a year ago. Previous to Long Beach I lived in Bayside Queens. One of the things I have noticed since moving here is the lack of a hospital near by. For me, it has been very comforting to know that there is a paid Fire Department. I know that this Fire Department is trained for both fires and EMT, and that they are committed to this work. It is their source of income and that comes with a level of commitment to their job. I can see that Long Beach is a close knit community and quite frankly I am surprised that much of the discussion is on money and not the safety and welfare of the community. I work in Human Resources and I would think that laying off these guys would create a lot of overtime for the rest of the firefighters and fiscally would make no sense for the budget of Long Beach.

  20. Jay, help me understand the comparison to Rockaway. They have a population of more than 130,000 (2007) yet only a few more firefighters than we have now. I realize there is a lot to the concept of adequate coverage. Just looking for info. Thanks.

  21. The people of LB are enraged???? You’re delusional. No one, NO ONE is talking about this on the streets of LB. Don’t kid yourself to think anyone cares about this because they don’t. The meeting was packed because the 40 paid firemen of the LBFD were told to bring 10 people to the meeting resulting in 400 people and the illusion that the average lb citizen gives a rats ass about these overpaid underworked (10 firea a year) city “workers”.

  22. I am not a member of the LBFD. And the very fact that you are so delusional to think that anyone who disagrees with you must be a plant is scary.

    Why the hell would the volunteers want to eliminate the paid FD. How do they benefit? THEY DONT GET PAID YOU MORON!!!

  23. I encourage every LB taxpayer to read the article posted by “Sam” above. It makes excellent points as to exactly why we do NOT need a professional salaried FD in LB. We can survive just fine as we currently do with a smal paid EMT foce to respond to the 4500 EMT calls in LB and let the volunteers handle the 10 fires we have on average each year.

  24. I am in no way in favor of the lay offs. However was there ever any consideration or thought given to wage freezes, give backs or demoting some of the lieutenants with the least amount of seniority in order to keep the 5 firefighters slated to be laid off?

  25. I would also like clarification, with the work force reduced to 20 firefighters and officers – and with fire personal working their normal schedule and shift rotation, now what is the impact when 2-3 members are on medical leave, or if 2-3 members are on medical leave while another member is on vacation, Without increasing overtime? How can the ambulance and career engine remain adequately staffed with the 4 firefighters and 1 officer, with those aforementioned vacancies; and not create the need to cover shifts with guys on overtime? Was this even considered in regard to a cost saving measure?

  26. Additionally I don’t think people appreciate the value of a fast response time. In an all volunteer department when a fire is discovered a call is placed to 911 and then eventually transferred to be fire department. The fire dispatcher (not a professional fire alarm dispatcher like in NYC) eventually alterts the volunteers. Let’s say it is 4AM, so we are already behind the eight ball because of the delay in reporting the alarm. Now the fire chief wakes up, probably goes to be bathroom, gets dressed, starts the Chiefs SUV, announces that he is responding. Where are we at now? 6-7 minutes from the time the phone call was placed? Minimum. We haven’t even begun to examine the rest of the members now responding to the firehouse to get the trucks. So when does that first fire apparatus with an on board water supply finally arrive? 10-12 minutes from the original 911 call? Now who’s operating that pump? The kid who’s taking criminal justice classes at Nassau CC who’s foot can’t stop shaking on the accelerator cause it’s his first worker that he’s driving to??? How about that new “officer” in the front seat? Where’s the accountability for him? Does he know his responsibility? What’s expected of him? You cannot put a price tag on the response time of the career staff. PERIOD.

  27. I would love to have the best (and most expensive) insurance policies on my house, my car, my life, my health insurance etc….but I never pick the best policy. I pick a reasonable one that I believe balances the risks vs the cost.

  28. And you are way off when when it comes to retirements too WET. Baby boomers have been retiring in droves from the positions you cite, and few seek to stay much beyond their required 30. The jobs are competitive, require certification(teaching) and hard work. Apply if you qualify. There are plenty of career options that remunerate better than those held by hardworking professionals who are “pricing you out?”.

  29. @TTMS – don’t believe you’re correct about teachers retiring in droves. Maybe I’m wrong. Post up a link to inform. Keep in mind an increase in retirees is not that the same as a majority of eligible retirees, retiring.

    I have no interest in being a teacher.

    I’m not priced out.

    I believe most young people don’t want to live on LI, more than they are priced out. But it’s probably a combination of the two.

  30. Thanks again. I am admittedly trying to catch up on this and appreciate your responses.
    It is very hard to see how EMS trained people providing a revenue stream would be the first to go in a layoff situation, especially for LB with our ever strained budget and swollen debt. This makes no sense. I dont feel I have enough information to stand up at a City Council meeting and make sense/a strong argument (never stopped me before…). Thanks for getting me pointed in the right direction.

  31. You are way off about the FDNY’s Rockaway apparatus. There are 6 engine cos ( one officer and 4 FFs) so that’s 6 officers and 24ffs and 3 truck companies ( one officer and 5ffs) so 3 more officers and 15 more FFs and 1 battalion chief( aide FF and a chief) so all together each day there are 40 FFs , one chief and 9 officers working. No way you can compare the UFA to the FDNY

  32. Cry babies? If you are a NYC firefighter you are part of the UFA of the FDNY subsequently part of the IAFF. Long Beach paid firemen are IAFF. You CANNOT volunteer in an area that is saved by paid firemen if you are one yourself. Cry baby? Get over yourself.

  33. Jay, could you please provide some additional information, including the ratio of Lieutenants to regular firefighters in the paid force in Long Beach, how that compares to the ratio in the FDNY, what is the optimal ratio of officers to firefighters, and the approximate difference in salary (as a percentage) between a LT and a firefighter.

    Also, it has been pointed out that the majority of calls the LBFD responds to are ambulatory. Currently we have firefighters that are cross trained as EMTs. While this option provides the most versatility, it is also the most expensive option, since cross trained firefighters have higher salaries. If we continue with the “insurance” argument for having a paid force, can you please address whether it would be a better use of taxpayer resources to have more EMT/Paramedics, which make less than full cross trained firefighters and are what we need for the majority of LBFD calls, and fewer cross trained firefighters.

  34. Jay, questions about the revenue. When did the fire department start taking in revenue? How much revenue does the fire department take in? Is there a way to take in more revenue? Where does the revenue from the ambulances go?

  35. Forgetting about all the FD politics, City Hall poitics, levels of “disability” etc it seems to me that LB has a very large population of current and former members of the FDNY whose talents should in some way be harnessed.

  36. The professional fire protection that Long Beach enjoys also grants us a Grade 3 public protection rating.

    This rating, derived by a private service, determines the price of property owners’ fire insurance.

    Considering the density of the frame shacks that cover much of this city, on the scale of 1 through 10, this is a great rating and keeps our insurance costs down.

    Remember your flood insurance nightmare? If you disregarding your family’s safety isn’t an incentive, ditch your professional fire department and watch what happens to your fire insurance rates.

  37. Thank you for the information and answering people questions.

    For arguments sake, let’s say that we maintain current paid staffing numbers (30). Currently a shift has 5 firefighters on duty, one LT and two firefighters on the truck and two on the ambulance. Using the math you used above, if we need six crews (four working groups comprising the job, and the other two being floaters to cover days off and vacation), we would need 6 LT’s and 12 firefighters for a total of 18 crossed trained firefighters. We currently have 30 on the payroll.

    So let’s move to covering ambulatory services. Using the same math, if we needed 6 ambulance crews at 2 paramedics per shift, that is 12 total. EMTs/paramedics are in a lower pay scale than fully cross trained firefighters. So again, assuming maintaining current staffing numbers (30) it seems that 12 out of the 30 firefighters…40% of the force…is in a much higher pay grade than they need to be to get the job done. Please note I am also ignoring the acknowledgement that we have 40% more officers than we need (10 LTs when we only need 6). Is this the best use/allocation of tax dollars?

  38. John, I’m trying to understand your math, and not trying to be critical but I don’t follow how that works. To be staffed bare bones with no flexibility for having people take a day off or possibly get sick or injured (hazardous job and constantly dealing with sick people), they would need 5 guys x 4 shifts so that’s 20 people and 1 more as the xo, so that’s 21. And that’s bare bones, national average is having 5 dedicated to a fire engine. They are flexible under the hope that the ambulance crew will be available to fill the complement in case of a fire or other incident. And that crew size is under the context that they will be supported by another garunteed crew of equal size. In the volunteer system there is no garuntee who is showing up.
    So the fact that these guys are crossed trained helps lower the amount of total employees, it doesn’t make financial sense to have independent paramedics.
    Houses are now being built taller while still being 4 feet apart in many areas, that motivates an even greater crew size. The large number of high rise buildings also is a reason why we need to maintain proper crew sizes. There are many many factors motivating why they need to maintain if not increase the crew of firefighters on duty.
    I believe that the amount of lieutenants was originally increased to remove overtime if a lieutenant needs a day off, is sick or injured.
    The needs of the community are to have a preferred minimum of 7 cross trained firefighters on duty. That satisfies the minimum reccomendations set by the national standards, it also allow for 2 ambulances to be on duty. And that made the difference last night when two people were shot and needed to ambulances immediately.
    We need to remember that at 30 cross trained advanced emts/firefighters, working 24/7 for the needs of the community , only account to 5 percent of the budget. Are the second highest revenue source behind the beach passes. And even with being limited in managemtn they bring in around $1000000 a year. the city should appreciate what a great value they offer, and work with them to increase the the revenue sources that will lower the already low impact on the taxpayer.
    So at less than 50 cents a day per household why is everyone so intrigued at downgrading emergency services. We should be polishing the gem that we have instead of trying to break it.

  39. Can I foil anything to find out how much the fire department is making for the city? I would think the money the fire department takes in would go directly back to the fire department to cover costs.

  40. Liz, it’s public record, but probably not on a separate revenue line in the published documents. It would be lumped in with some other income.

    The present administrative is extremely secretive about financial matters. I don’t see why they would hide these numbers, but you’d have to find the right person in the City to dig them out. They may feel they would be criticized for the amount paid to the collection company.

    You can ask, and maybe they’ll tell you. Or you can file a formal Freedom of Information Request which they may or may not answer. There is no penalty for their noncompliance.

  41. Allison,
    If you look at the Adopted Budget you can see a line on page 36 of the PDF for “A0012 41640 AMBULANCE CHARGES”
    Year Ending
    6/30/2012 – $882,002
    6/30/2013 – $782,585
    6/30/2014 – $565,166

    They have $850K budgeted for 2014-2015, I wonder if they were thinking they could add a mileage fee for the trip up north….

    (http://www.longbeachny.gov/vertical/sites/%7BC3C1054A-3D3A-41B3-8896-814D00B86D2A%7D/uploads/COLB_2014-2015_Adopted_Budget.pdf)

  42. I am simply stating demographic realities as a retiree. My wife retired last year. In our districts and as informed by our professional contacts on LI and NYC, the vast majority of colleagues who reach 55 yo and 30 years longevity are retiring, thus the last of the boomers who dominated staffs in the past are going, going, gone creating significant employment opportunities in the public sector when factoring in the boomlet that has nourished enrollment. Apologies for misreading your specific situation, and I agree that the combination of lifestyle preference and cost of living are key co factors in LI flight. That said, LB, intelligently developed, should be able to draw some of that ” suburban” flight.

  43. Jay, can you explain why the actual ambulance revenues have decreased so significantly from 12-14? 12 inflated by Sandy? Thank you for your sharp analysis.

  44. The City states that maintaining the firefighters at risk of excess ing would necessitate a 2% increase in the City Real Estate tax. Given the importance of rapid response by professional firefighters to effective fire protection/property loss control and EMS, and the fact that today’s work and mobility requirements limit the recruiting of long time local volunteers, it seems to me that the $60-$100 per year increase(for most homeowners) could be thought of as money well spent, especially when factoring in the possibility that losing these firemen may in fact not achieve the stated economies (as per Jay’s overtime cost analysis) and given Eddie’s point that there are other far less valuable positions that could be axed to find the budget savings necessary.

  45. Wow I’ve learned so much…thanks Jay for the clean easy to understand answers. I’ve been a homeowner in LB for 6 years and my husband is FDNY…we have never been to a city hall meeting. It’s so sad that LB residents (at least in my group of friends that own homes and rent) are not getting involved in the many politics of this City. My husband and I were always under the impression that all politics/business in LB is who you know. I’m sure much of it is but this LBFD layoff is concerning us now that we have a new home and a small infant. After reading through this blog I now want to be more involved. This administration should not hinder any acquisition of information for the public. Especially if it can help determine the need and how it benefits our community. I’m so disgusted. My taxes were just significantly increased so naturally I want my taxes lowered but to go after the paid fireman? Public safety? This the last place in my opinion. I’m more for demotions and nixing any unnecessary jobs given to family members of higher ups in City Hall…we need to clean up if you ask me. Maybe then we will have extra money to move around. And the LB police department salaries…let’s just say I went into the wrong profession.

  46. Eddie, Which insurance companies are still using the ISO rating to determine insurance ratings, most companies (e.g. State Farm since 2000) are now using actual losses in a specific zip code. My insurance company has stated (in the past related to a different city having its PPC rating lowered) that the PPC rating going down would not lead to an increase in insurance prices unless it it was accompanied by an increase in property losses or water supply issues or some other factor that impacted the loss due to fires in the fire district.

  47. “Please raise our taxes! We don’t want our kids burnt to death”.

    The typical “Have-to-raise-taxes-or-we’ll-shoot-the-dog” ploy. It’s like when they threaten to take basketballs from kids if the school budget’s voted down.

    Shame on the City Council. Are the residents this stupid? Probably. They reelected this scum.

    My insurer uses ISO ratings to surcharge fire premiums. I don’t know which do or do not. My fire policy costs me less than $500/year thanks to our professional fire department.

  48. The revised budget for 2014 actually shows 950,000. The lower numbers from those two years can be due to many reasons, poor reporting post sandy, the fema standby ambulances that covered the area for many months (while city was in recovery phase), or it could be due to the lost revenue taken in by the “free” ambulance the city illegally brought in.

    THE LAST THING THE COMMUNITY NEEDS IS A PRIVATE COMPANY DOING AMBULANCE SERVICE.

    The small amount of savings that the city will not have to pay in salaries, will be with equally matched if not surpassed by lost revenue. Private companies are in the business to make money. When Municipalities offer public safety, it is primarily as a service to the public, not a revenue source. Ambulance service bills are great source of revenue, and we should hold onto it.

    When a municipality bills for ambulance and medical care, they can waive the fees not paid for by the insurance companies or if person is uninsured. When a private company gives a bill, they can make the fees what ever they choose, and whatever isnt paid for by insurance, will now be the sent to collections. THAT IS BAD. If the boss doesn’t think his company is making enough money, he will pull the company out.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/major-ambulance-service-shuts-down-without-notice-six-states-f2D11718619

    keep the public in public safety, that way the community (resident/voters) will still influence how they are cared for.

  49. I dont want my taxes raised at all…and I damn sure don’t want my child burned. Unless there is a better suggestion then we should keep the paid firemen. Many have already given examples that contracting EMS services out is not the best solution financially for the city so instead of slinging insults to the residents of LB maybe come up with better suggestions. We all vote people into office and all politicians from all parties have proven flawed so again come up with real solutions present them…share them at meetings and bring it to the administration. Hell if it makes sense I’m sure people will back you up and fight for change.

  50. I may be mistaken, but I believe several years ago, at the behest of the billing company, the city started billing much higher ambulance rates because their other clients do so. This provided an artificial figure. You will notice the item is listed as “Ambulance Charges” – in medical billing there is a big difference between charges and actual collected money. This isn’t just flim flam, NYS law states all people must be charged equally to prevent uneven levels of care. There is no law that says collections have to be equal, so there is usually a contractual allowance that isn’t collected. Then there are co payments and deductibles that are the patient’s responsibility.

    A family member was transported to SNCH recently. The bill was $400. plus mileage. His insurance paid $150, his deductible was $200 and the balance was billed to his secondary insurance, which denied the claim as excessive. I think the city waived the balance.

    So it isn’t easy to increase the revenue from the ambulance. I do wonder if the city can even bill for EMT services that do not include transport. That may be something to investigate.

  51. medicare and medicaid have a set rate that they will pay out for specific ambulance services and transportation,even if the bill is 1000 dollars they will only pay out around 480 or so. Insurance companies (blue cross, aetna, metlife, etc,) pay more than medicare medicaid.
    yet the efficiency of collecting from insurance companies can always be improved, if it is properly maintained. I would double check your invoice, I dont believe that there is a deductible for ambulance rides.

    It was great that the city waived the remaining balance of the bill. Many medical provider companies and ambulance companies add as many services as possible into the bill because they know the insurance company will try to hack it down. Private companies will send that remaining balance to collections

  52. Your right I’m sure mud slinging can go back and fourth all day…again thanks for the info regarding the fireman situation. It really shed some light on this whole thing.

  53. A reliable fire protection company is the very basis for forming municipalities. To argue about paying firemen, maintaining sewers and paving streets when this city’s payroll has exploded with friends and family members of the local clubhouse in do-nothing no-show jobs is absurd.

    Equally absurd is comparing professionals to volunteers. Take away our paid protection and I might as well live upstate and enjoy $400/year taxes.

    Notice how the city’s framing the debate: Do you want your house to burn down or do you want a tax increase?

    And you guys fall right into the trap.

  54. Long Beach did the same thing Bob S. Gave 8-20% raises. When I questioned it I was told by Eramo it is a minuscule amount of the budget and not to worry about it. I am all for raises but 8-20% is ridiculous.

  55. $90m budget. I’m sure the raises were a minuscule part of it.

    instead of using percentages or increases why not look at the actual salaries and who earns them. That’s probably what your honest problem is anyway. The percentage game just sounds like political bs.

    Your twisted internet rage obviously is not for financial concern since our city tax bills went down this year.

    Are you really more outraged that Schnirman makes 160 or that garbage men and firemen made 170?

    You are against People like Kemins and LaCarrubba making six figure salaries but you’re for thugs and criminals like kavazanjian and macnamara making six figures in the fire department to work 10 days a month?

    I think your priorities are screwy.

  56. “… our city tax bills went down this year….”???

    In what city do you live? Mine went up $195 and my sanitation charge went up $300. You are either mistaken, a liar or a Tepper.

  57. County and school tax rates up city down. Republican debt line was pulled from city bill this year and my overall taxes were definitely down. Your assessment may have gone up but that’s not my problem.

  58. Zuppa = Zapson? That’s the only excuse for the nonsense he’s spouting. Every reader has a tax bill and every reader knows the Long Beach bill is bigger this month than last year.

    You may not like Eddie’s conservative opinions, but his facts don’t lie. Liberals hate facts.

  59. This just in. I am not well paid. I’m a volunteer you buffoon! You’re the one making 175gs to write posts on websites all day!!!

    Zapson protects you and your criminal pals. Republicans ran up debt but if they come back there’s a chance they’ll s&it can you and all your buddies who steal from taxpayers. Nowhere else on Long Island pays firemen. Good riddance to the five firemen.

  60. I’m not a liberal. Voted for McCain and Romney. I’m just telling the truth. City tax rate and my home tax bill both went down this year. Facts. I actually am hoping Moriarty gets some real candidates to run and get rid of Gusker. The Dems seem to be too fearful of him because of his big words.

  61. It’s ok to give 8-20% raises to city department heads? Just clarifying!

    I’m outraged that our city is giving out 20% raises. I’m outraged that the OT in this city is out of control!

    I’m guessing from your response you are one of the people who received the 20% raise and want to justify it.

    I’m not saying people don’t deserve raises just not absorbent.

  62. You’re a volunteer, Zappa? That explains your nonsense. What’s with you guys? Whatever KoolAide you guys drink makes you look like unstable lunatics. What better defense of the paid department than reading your nonsensical posts. Sucking up to and lying for the Dems in hopes of getting a real job no less!!! By the way, what were you jailed for? Jay, how do you deal with people like this?

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