Deputy Fire Chief Donald Long had the highest total compensation in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District in 2017, a report recently released by the fire district shows, with 23 other district employees making more than $300,000 that year in salary, benefits and district-paid retirement contributions.
The fire district had the highest average wages of any state or local government agency in California in 2016, according to the state controller's website. That year, 12 district employees topped $300,000 in total compensation.
The report was part of the fire board's consent calendar agenda, approved in a batch with other consent calendar items with no discussion at the April 17 board meeting. It had earlier been reviewed by the district's Finance Committee, but the committee did not make a report on its discussion.
See the staff report on this item here.
The compensation report includes information the district is required to give to the state controller's office, and this year also included how much of each employee's salary was reimbursed by the state or federal government.
This year 11 employees made more in total compensation than Chief Harold Schapelhouman, whose total compensation was $325,585. Two of the 11 were firefighter engineer/medics while the others were at the level of captain or above.
Long had $306,645 in total payroll earnings before taxes, including $12,000 in other pay. With his district-paid retirement and benefits he made $378,703, with $31,366 of that reimbursed to the district.
A division chief was the number two in total compensation with $305,826 in total pre-tax payroll earnings, including lump sum pay of $66,901 and $12,000 in other pay. His total compensation was $375,730, none of it reimbursable.
Number three in total compensation was a firefighter engineer/medic whose $314,786 in total payroll earnings included $148,335 in overtime, lump sum pay of $1,468 and other pay of $12,537. His total compensation was $370,663, with $8,291 of it reimbursable.
The other highest overtime earners in the district were also firefighter engineer/medics. One had $136,367 overtime, with $18,879 of it reimbursable. The third had $114,892 overtime with $14,319 of it reimbursable.
Of the 24 employees with total compensation of $300,000 or more, 18 were of captain rank or higher, and six were firefighter engineer/medics.
The district had 57 employees with total compensation of $250,000 or more, with 26 of those firefighter engineer/medics.
The report lists 136 employees, many of whom did not work a full year.
Four employees had payroll earnings, before district-paid retirement and benefits, of $300,000 or more. One of them was a firefighter engineer/medic.
There were 24 employees with payroll earnings of $250,000 or more, six of them firefighter engineer/medics (who made $66,000 to $148,335 in overtime).
The district had 54 employees with payroll earnings of $200,000 or more.
Four employees had more than $100,000 in overtime, and 24 employees had overtime of $50,000 or more. Half of them were firefighter captain/medics and half were firefighter engineer/medics.
Other pay accounted for between $20,000 to $59,000 for 18 district employees. District Administrative Services Manager Kathleen Jackson said other pay includes a long list of items including extra pay for being bilingual, having a bachelor's degree, living close to the fire district or being a notary, training and deployment stipends, filling in on a job with a higher pay level, and uniform allowances.
Another 11 employees had lump sum pay (for cashing out unused annual leave or comp time) of $20,000 to $66,901.
A total of 19 district employees had pay reimbursable by the state or federal government of between $20,000 to $68,516. The total that was reimbursable was $1.28 million. Schapelhouman said district firefighters responded to 18 incidents outside the fire district in 2017, including wildfires, hurricanes and floods.
In an email statement, the chief said it is "important to understand that actual take home pay may look quite different after taxes" and the employees' share of pension costs, which is 9 to 12 percent of their regular pay. District employees do not pay into or receive Social Security from the federal government.
"Individual employees are not the highest paid in the State but the District as a whole does have one of the highest average rates of pay," Schapelhouman wrote, adding that is because most of the district's employees are first-responders, with only a small support staff.
The lowest minimum (starting) base salary -- before any overtime, extra or lump sum pay -- listed for a district employee in 2017 is $51,054 for an administrative assistant in human resources. The minimum salary for a firefighter in training is listed at $103,302.
Schapelhouman also said "the communities the Fire District serves are also among the wealthiest and most expensive in the Country." The area has low unemployment, "heavily congested roadways and an ultra-expensive and a very limited housing supply," he said.
Fire board President Chuck Bernstein said that as a member of the district's Finance Committee, he had "reviewed the (report's) data at length in our last meeting."
"I believe that District staff have done a good job breaking down some of the categories into component parts so that we can view all the elements of our compensation system," he said. "I am persuaded that the data, as presented, is accurate.
"What we do with it and how it affects our future labor agreements are issues that will be resolved through political and collective bargaining processes, but at least we can be reassured that we will be using accurate numbers," he said.
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