The Vanguard has been arguing for the past few weeks that impasse does not go far enough. As we argued last week, it was a good start, but it was not the fight for which the firefighters’ union drew a line in the sand.
Intrepid Vanguard commenter Mr. Toad noted last week, “I want them all praised for doing the right thing on the biggest vote of them all and I want all you bashers to admit you were wrong about Lucas and Dan.”
In response to our column that noted this, he added, “At the end of the day you discount the importance of the hardest vote of them all, the vote to take money out of peoples pockets, instead suggesting that other votes that you favored were the most important. Yet when you compare the savings from the three votes the one that saves the most money is the vote to impose.”
Interesting point, but I wonder if it is really an accurate statement that the vote that saved the most money was the vote to impose. Indeed, no one argued otherwise, but it’s far from clear that this is an accurate statement.
The city’s fiscal analysis on the vote to impose: “Imposing the recommended terms and conditions of employment will bring the costs of the Davis Professional Firefighters union in line with the approved amount budgeted for fiscal year 2013/14. It costs the City approximately $28,000 per month each month an agreement is not reached with the Davis Professional Firefighters Local 3494.”
Granted, that number had been flip-flopping around for most of the year, but the latest figure gives us about a $336,000 savings annually.
So let us compare that to other potential savings. For example, the initial savings for shared management is $88,202 but the potential savings is $231,544. The city realizes additional savings when the Davis division chief position is transitioned into UC Fire salary and benefit packages.
Ultimately, the city could save a lot more if they can bring fire salaries into line with UC fire salaries and therefore have a full merger.
But, as Vice Chancellor John Meyer explained, we are not ready for a merger.
He noted, “The culture of the rank and file firefighters is not rife for a full merger at this time. I don’t think you could get both labor groups to agree.”
“It would be a huge financial burden on the university to do a full merger at this point,” he said.
John Meyer added, “I don’t disagree by any means that that would be a best outcome. But I don’t think it can happen in one step. Without some of these interim steps, I don’t think the trust is built.”
In January of 2012, John Meyer “paused” the fire merger process, citing what he called a “significant compensation disparity” as a culprit.
“I am deeply concerned about the significant compensation disparity highlighted in the Citygate report,” he writes. “The report suggests that UC Davis will increase its compensation in support of consolidation efforts. I believe such action would not be sustainable by UC Davis and should not be assumed in future planning.”
But the biggest cost savings was the reduction from 12 firefighters to 11 firefighters. The city budget this year assumed a staffing level of 11 firefighters per shift; the cost of going to 12 firefighters would result in a $443,663 cost.
We actually see two figures for the savings – the $443,663 comes from the preliminary budget.
As the city manager wrote in late April on the question of fire staffing itself, “Daily Minimum Staffing (DMS) of twelve (status quo). Four person staffing at Stations 31, 32 and 33. This model maintains the status quo and, since the Preliminary FY 2013/14 budget was not built on this assumption, the Fire department budget would need to be increased by $437,701.”
The bottom line here is as follows: impasse itself saved the city about $336,000 savings annually.
However, to argue that this was the biggest savings ignores the math. The single biggest line of savings came from fire staffing cuts, and we’ll use the lower figure of $437,701 in savings.
The combined two of the staffing cuts and shared management varies from a low end of $525,903 to an upper end of $669,245.
All told, the actions this year by council might have saved the city just over $1 million. Given how the budget looks in the future, that $1 million is far from insignificant and it has a chance to be much greater if the city can eventually merge the two departments.
But, contrary to the claims of Mr. Toad and others, two-thirds of that savings came not on a 5-0 vote, but rather on two separate 3-2 votes.
The math demonstrates that the vote on impasse for fire was not the biggest savings and ultimately not the most crucial vote taken by council on this issue this year.
—David M. Greenwald reporting