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Letter to the Editor: San Ramon Resident Takes Issue with Fire Chief's Pension

San Ramon Valley Fire District Chief Richard Price retired in January and will be taking a $1 monthly salary until a new chief is hired.

Editor's note: On Feb. 10, Danville Patch picked up from the Contra Costa Times about the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District Chief Richard Price retiring but staying on as a volunteer with a $1 a month salary until a new chief was hired.

As a 50-year-old man nowhere near retirement, I have a bone to pick regarding the article in the Contra Costa Times on San Ramon Valley Fire Chief Richard Price’s retirement and announcement he’s coming back to work for $1 a year. 

I appreciate the chief giving back to the San Ramon Valley for whom has given him so much, but to glorify this act after he spiked his way to a wonderful retirement package seems a bit gratuitous.

If Chief Price, or any other soon to be retiring firefighter wants my respect and the respect of the SRV, don’t spike your salary in your final years in order to jack up your retirement benefits. We all pay for your massive pensions with our tax dollars. I’m sure everybody, who when given the chance to spike their pensions, probably would. 

I really can’t legally fault the firefighters for legally spiking their pensions, I feel it is morally and ethically questionable, but it is legal. I’m sure there are a lot of folks that would do the same if given the opportunity, but former Governor Gray Davis only had so many favors to pass out while trying to keep from being recalled almost a decade ago. Unfortunately, my retirement plan and those of all the private employees working in California, ours are based on the performance of the stock market. Nothing is guaranteed.

That’s the part of the firefighter pension system that gets all of us non-public employees furious. Well, that and the fact it will eventually bankrupt every city/county in the state. It is a mathematical certainty (i.e., see the city of Vallejo); it’s unsustainable. 

A small correction to the article -- my math shows that Chief Price will receive 96 percent (32 years times 3 percent) of his last spiked year of salary, overtime, hazard pay, etc., which equals an annual pension of $249,994/yr ($260,410 times 96 percent). That’s $46,000 over his working wage (see the dictionary for spiking). That doesn’t even include his medical benefits, which will be paid in full until he is 65 years old. 

If he collects his pension for 40 years, he will receive $10 million! Are you kidding me!!

I’ve heard the argument that firefighters have a dangerous job to do so they “deserve” these retirement riches. But, per the Wall Street Journal, a firefighter doesn’t even make the list of the Top 25 Most Dangerous Jobs in America. Why we all appreciate our public servants/firefighters giving back to the community in their well paid golden years, my guess he is doing it out guilt and very little out of a sense of duty that the article infers. 

Maybe he’s coming back because he can afford to do so. In my next life I’m coming back as a firefighter, but I’d better hurry and get hired on because most of our cities and counties will be driven into bankruptcy in the near future given their pension liabilities. You know what would be truly compelling? Find a teacher that retired and came back to teach for a $1 year on his/her PERS pension of $46,500 year. Now that would be a story about a real hero!

Tom Lindberg, 23-year resident of San Ramon, health insurance agency owner.

If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, go for the details and send them to the Danville Patch editor Terry Parris Jr. at terry.parris@patch.com.

Dan Erboy March 03, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Politicians know that they have to get in bed with the unions to have any chance of getting elected and compromise principals and the people they are elected to serve! Start paying attention to New Jersey and Idaho people. FINALLY - politicians that are sick and tired of being held hostage to the unions and are making some real change. Changes that actually benefit the people that these such people are elected to serve. Don't be the lame duck sitting in shock when all of your services go away and cities are vacated. Turn around and thank your self serving union workers and the politicians that serve you! Keep taking the bait and let them play on your emotions you sappy, feel good Californians! And remember, when the financial fallout hits your town, if it already hasn't. "They Save LIVES and Go into burning buildings and DANG IT...they deserved to be millionaires! And you all will deserve to be financially bankrupt for not doing the right thing!
Claire Voyance March 03, 2012 at 08:21 PM
This is a timely article: Salary 'spiking' drains public pension funds, analysis finds By Catherine Saillant, Maloy Moore and Doug Smith Los Angeles Times March 3, 2012 Link: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-county-pensions-20120303,0,6677861.story
Claire Voyance March 03, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Other news and commentary about obscene pensions: http://americanscumbags.blogspot.com/search/label/obscene%20pensions
Claire Voyance March 08, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Inspiring news articles about America's Bravest: https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23DirtyHosers
Marc March 08, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Not sure, but do firefighters in other states get the same pension/retirement benefits?

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