Back in November, I wrote an opinion piece (Opinion: City Council Not Delivering on Measure P Promise on Fire and Police Departments) that spelled out how our first responders, primarily our firefighters, were not being taken care of as in years past.
At our City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 14, the Council approved a new contract for firefighters that, besides other things, gave them a 10% wage hike as of July 1, 2024.
As the staff reports pointed out, 18 firefighters have left the city for other departments, with 11 of these being paramedics. This loss has had a huge financial impact on the city alone when talking about having to staff equipment daily.
You may say, let them go if they want. But maybe, they did not really want to go. Many firefighters have families, and without a doubt, financial considerations always will be important as they take care of those families in today’s economy.
What you also have to consider is the large amount of money and resources that the city has put into the hiring and training of these people. The hiring process, including background checks, costs funding along with the academy the department runs. This takes man hours, which is an investment in itself.
So after a firefighter goes through probation, they work through the department for years. Suddenly, another department offers better financial incentives and benefits, and we lose that firefighter. Not only did we lose our investment over the years, but we lost all of the experience that they had collected along the way.
This is unacceptable, and the Council has gone a long way to alleviate the problem.
Not only are the firefighters being taken care of with a substantial raise, but paramedics are also getting a nice bump. There is also an increase in their contribution to their medical premiums.
So yes, this will cost the city more and they had to allocate just over $2 million dollars to cover the costs this year. Sometimes you need to do what is right, and this time they got it right.
Our fire department has worked hard for a Class 1 rating and has proven over the years to be one of the best around. We take pride in them, and they have become a significant factor in why people live in Burbank.
Next up for our Council is finding a way to add a fourth paramedic unit to the department. Multiple times every week, all three paramedic rescue ambulances are tied up on calls, and paramedics from both the cities of Glendale and as far away as Pasadena have to come to Burbank for emergency calls.
Without a doubt, response time is essential when dealing with life-and-death decisions.
Now the Council needs to make sure we take care of our police officers on their next contract.