Fire board approves new compensation policy


By Barbara Wood

Special to the Almanac

Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District voted Tuesday night (July 19) to change the way they look at the pay and benefits offered to firefighters and other district employees.

The "Employee Compensation Philosophy" unanimously approved by the five-member board of directors will come back to the board for final approval next month.

In the past, salary levels have often been based on what other fire districts pay their employees. The new policy says that if a "sufficient number of qualified applicants" apply for a job, the salary level should be considered to be enough to attract "employees who are qualified and committed to provide high quality service to the community."

The board will look at private employers as well as public employers when figuring out pay and benefit packages, and will attempt to clearly show the total cost to the district of the entire pay and benefit package for each employee.

Pay and benefits will be tied to merit and performance and pay increases based only on length of employment would not be allowed. The board would continually re-evaluate its pay practices and consider factors such as current local economic conditions when setting pay and befit levels.

"We were elected to represent the taxpayers," board member Peter Carpenter said. "This is where we want to start from and then we'll negotiate from there."

At a future meeting, the board plans to discuss how the directors themselves are compensated and reimbursed for benefits such as health insurance.

● Click here to read the text of the new compensation policy.

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Like this comment
Posted by Susan Smith
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 20, 2011 at 7:26 am

This compensation plan should have happened 30 years ago, so it could help us NOW. What plans are being made to arrest the number of retirees under the age of 60 years old who will be collecting high 5 or low 6 figure pension incomes for the rest of their young lives while we are sacraficing public services and accepting increased fees and taxes? What about now?

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 20, 2011 at 7:49 am

This new policy, combined with the Fire District's existing Resolution requiring that any proposed labor agreement be made public 15 days before the Board is permitted to vote on that proposal, ensures that the taxpayers' interests are fully considered in the process of negotiating new wages and pensions. No longer will labor negotiations be done without public scrutiny.

As for Susan's concerns about existing pensions - that is the price that citizens pay for not demanding that their elected officials act in the public interest.

Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2011 at 8:40 am

Just wanted to say this before all of the critics jump in, or those who discount progress because it didn't come sooner have their say. My thanks and compliments to the District Board. For this, and many other initiatives they have taken that insure fiscal responsibility. In my opinion the MPFPD should be held up as "best practice" in terms of how public entities should be managed.

Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm

This sounds like a step in the right direction.

Susan, the only recourse for existing pensions is taxation or bankruptcy.

Like this comment
Posted by jerome leugers
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Finally, some sanity in public employee compensation.

Like this comment
Posted by E. Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Kudos to the MPFPD Board of Directors.

The new policy calls for consideration of the taxpayer and the general economic climate. What simple, logical concepts. That these concepts were never in the compensation policy of the MPFPD before is amazing. That the current board has corrected this, is nobel. Elected officials of other Councils and Boards in our area should follow their lead.

There one other question of compensation. It is the formula(s) used for compensation vs. risk that eventually needs to be addressed. I get it that the compensation of "safety" employees (fire and police) should be higher that public employees in clerical and gardening positions. The risk they face is the tradeoff for higher compensation. But why continue that compensation differential when the risk ends. The risk ends when they retire, yet these employees are afforded higher multipliers on higher pay bases for their retirement pay. The risk is gone, why not adjust the retirement compensation down to the new level of risk.

Does this make sense to others? Or am I alone in seeing this incongruity?

Like this comment
Posted by Kudos
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 27, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Very good, common-sense policy. It might not be bad for similar initiatives to circulate for other jurisdictions and agencies. Even SF, which is a little too union-influenced (2010 Prop B was pretty reasonable, but failed), did pass something similar with its Fix Muni Now ballot measure, which established that arbiters must consider the impact of disputed work rules on Muni fares and service. When the union rank-and-file rejected a fairly-negotiated contract earlier this year, what happened? The arbiter imposed the contract anyway!

Good to see progress, however disjointed.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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