The City of Boise and the Firefighters Union are negotiating a new labor contract. At issue is how much firefighters should be paid.
Last year, the average department employee made $85,000, plus another $50,000 for insurance and retirement, according to the Idaho Statesman. That’s up 24 percent from a decade ago. However, two years ago, firefighters refused a contractual raise.
Statesman reporter Sven Berg has been reporting on firefighter salaries in Boise. He says six years ago, the city decided to pay firefighters more money. Now, they make a little bit more that firefighters in Spokane and Reno, and quite a bit more than firefighters in Salt Lake City.
Berg says as more of the city budget goes to firefighters, other departments are getting less. "Somebody's got to pay. Parks and Recreation has seen something of a decline over the past 10 years in its share of the general fund," says Berg. "And that's despite taking on a whole lot of new parks. Libraries are basically the same, and they've taken on three branch libraries during that time." He says that's a concern for some people.
Boise firefighters are highly trained. They have to deal with a unique set of challenges that very few firefighters around the country have. "We have 18, 20 story buildings here and that's not an easy thing, when you get a fire in the top of one of those things, it's not easy to fight those fires," says Berg, "but then they also have to be skilled in fighting fires out on the range, in the Foothills, and also fishing people out of the [Boise] river. They have a broad range of skills."
Berg says deciding if firefighters are being paid too much or too little is a tough issue. “Everybody kind of needs to decide on their own, and more to the point, the City Council, which is the one that signs off on the firefighter budget, they need to decide where that line is, what’s too much and what’s not enough," Berg says.
He says it’s hard to say how long it will take to reach a contract. Negotiations have been going on for more than a year. You can read Berg's article here.
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