Chicago Firefighters Get $94 Million In Back Pay

CHICAGO (STMW) — Chicago firefighters and paramedics will get $94 million in back pay dating back to June 30, 2007 — bankrolled by debt likened to “borrowing to pay for last year’s groceries” — after their contract was ratified Monday.

“We’re very concerned. It’s enormously expensive to borrow to pay for operating costs. Future taxpayers are gonna have to pay, not only for their own city services but debt on services they did not receive,” said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall.

“It’s similar to borrowing to pay for last year’s groceries. It demonstrates a failure to plan and leave aside adequate funds” for an expense the city knew was coming.

Members of the City Council’s Finance Committee voiced similar concerns before approving a deal that gives firefighters and paramedics a 10 percent pay raise over five years in exchange for manpower changes that will help reduce city overtime costs.

Back paychecks are expected to range from $5,000 to $8,000.

“We knew approximately what this agreement might look like because it mirrored the [police] agreements, but other than 2011, we do not have back pay actually budgeted? We’ll have to bond for that?” said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).

Deputy Budget Director Jonathon Johnson replied, “That’s correct.”

Newly-appointed Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), Maywood’s former village manager, continued, “Is there any other way to pay those dollars without having to borrow to do so? Are they any other options — potential adjustments to the budget in order to meet that demand?”

Johnson replied, “At this time, no. A similar process was followed for the Police Department, also. The process has been of financing that through bonds vs. paying it outright.”

Last spring, Chicago taxpayers dodged a fiscal bullet when an independent arbitrator awarded police officers a 10 percent pay raise over five years, their smallest five-year increase in nearly three decades.

Although Mayor Daley knew the settlement was coming, he had already spent whatever money he had set aside to pay for it. He had no choice but to issue $160 million in short-term credit retired by general city revenues.

“Our revenues dropped precipitously after the recession started. It’s the best option,” Budget Director Eugene Munin said at the time.

The firefighters contract mirrors the police pay raises.

It also calls for the elimination and reassignment of a fire company currently assigned to the repair shop to provide what the city calls a “cushion” against overtime.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • Gee-reg

    How about a little more media coverage when the aldermen vote themselves a pay raise and a raise in their their personal slush funds !!!! The police and fire do not vote themselves a pay raise, it has to be fought for every time the current contract is up and always the city drags its feet and does not negotiiate with the unions which causes the 3 to 4 year back pay. But when the aldermen vote themselves a new pay raise it is effective the next pay day

    • Kelly

      @ Gee-reg
      You are so right! I believe the alderman are overpaid and should not get any more money. It’s only a PART-TIME gig, plus they receive all the perks. Every year they get more money for doing less. I believe the riskier your job is the more you should be paid. Our Fire and Police Departments deserve a lot more money.

      I’m wondering when people will finally get more than $17.40 per day for jury duty. It’s been this much for over 40 years I believe!

  • Chooch

    Dale spend the money that was allocated for the Fire Department?! That’s what needs to change, stop spending other peoples money on nonsense! Other city and villages do the same damn thing and it outrages citizens, but the citizens aren’t getting the whole story. The media needs to stop painting the picture that the fire department is causing taxes to go up…it’s the Alderman and Mayor that are mismanaging funds. Come on this should be so simple!

  • Arjay

    I only half agree with Kelly. I believe the firefighters should get every cent they can considering the risks and dangers they face every minute of every day. The police on the other hand should be a volunteer position as they really serve no purpose in Chicago other than revenue collection ie: traffic violations,parking meters,etc. They certainly aren’t doing anything to fight crime.

    • mike

      You are an idiot.

  • Me

    Oh this article makes me so mad that I can’t even think straight. “Borrowing to pay for last year’s groceries…” I suppose that’s an apt comparison if you didn’t pay full price for your groceries promising that you’d pay up later and now you are being asked to pony up.

    These men and women on the CFD and the CPD give a valuable service to the city, with quite a bit of personal sacrifice. They deserve to be paid well and treated fairly by the City for whom they work (and in which they are required to live…)

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  • Elizabeth

    Quit your bellyaching and pay these hardworking heroes

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