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CKFR chief seeks pay raises for administrative staff
At the same time commissioners from the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue District are pondering closing a fire station, they’re looking at pay raises for the administrative staff.
At Monday’s board meeting, CKFR Chief Scott Weninger asked the board to consider giving all administrative staff (management and supervisory employees — non union) cost of living raises, citing that they had not had COLAs since 2009.
“At the time we froze administrative salaries to lead by example,” Weninger said, noting that the finances of the district were tight and have remained so. “But it’s probably not feasible to leave them frozen forever.”
Weninger said all administrative and management positions should be considered for raises, except his own. The chief works under a contract with the district. His current salary is $142,000 annually.
Weninger said the district’s legal advisor’s assistant had done a survey and determined that for five sample positions, CKFR is anywhere from 10 to 22 percent below the going wages when compared to similar fire districts in the area.
For example, he said, a deputy chief with CKFR makes $129,081, whereas the average pay is $145,444, or a difference of $16,363 (11.25 percent below the going rate.)
In the years that there have been no COLAs, the consumer price index has shown a total inflation rate of 18.5 percent. During those same years, firefighters and EMTs who are represented by unions, have received pay raises including 3 percent in 2010, 2011, and 1 percent in 2013.
The district and the union are currently at a stalemate in their current contract negotiations which Weninger said are expected to go to arbitration. Union employees have been working without a contract since Jan. 1 of this year. The union is requesting annual pay raises for firefighters and EMTs.
Weninger said he is concerned that because management levels are not getting pay raises, the district is having a hard time getting good employees to advance into management positions.
“This is an issue for me,” the chief said. “This will eventually come to be a significant cost to the district. At some point there will be no incentive to join the management team.”
Commissioners asked Weninger to give them data on what compatible positions are paid in cities, school district at at the county level in Kitsap County, before they discuss the issue further.
“This has been a problem for a number of years,” said Commissioner Dick West. “We’re not really comparable (fire) district to (fire) district. I’d like to see what the salaries are for comparable positions at our local school district and other cities in the county. Then come back to the board with what the options are that are available to us.”
Board Chair Dave Fergus agreed.
“I’m not surprised that we’re so far behind,” he said. “But I’d like to see some (salary) data from school districts, ports and other cities as well.”
Weninger agreed to collect more data and bring the matter back to the board.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board discussed closing the Tracyton Fire Station which is now manned by all volunteers. And open house and public discussion on the matter was held in April. Several of of the same people who spoke out then were at Monday’s meeting questioning the district’s figures of what it would cost to keep the station open and make the needed repairs.
Among them was Gary Keenan who said the district’s figures were inflated.
“Nothing’s going to fall through that parking lot,” Keenan said.
‘And that building’s not going anywhere. I challenge the cost you have for the repairs to the asphalt and the structure. That building is steel framework.”
He said the building’s roof and heating were recently updated and it would be a shame to mothball it.
CKF&R’s facilities director Paul Anderson defended and explained how each dollar amount for repairs was figured. In all, he said, it would cost up to $500,000 to get the building and parking lot up to modern, useable shape.
No action was taken, but the board is expected to vote on the closure in May. If it is closed, the district has a plan to move the volunteers into Station 41 and have them work alongside professionals assigned there.
Weninger said he was aware of how it looks for him to be asking for raises for administrators at the same time that a station is being considered for closure.
“Both topics have been discussed for a long time,” he said. “Just as we have deferred maintenance on our facilities, we have put off pay raises. Our district is having its challenges financially. It’s not possible to ignore either over the long term. The question is when is the right time to do something.”