OCEANSIDE — City Council unanimously approved a 2 percent salary increase for fire management on Oct. 12 with no public discussion. Following the vote Mayor Jim Wood said all city employees will see a pay increase this year.
Wood added the raise is welcome, but fire management did not get everything they requested in negotiations.
The pay raise will be spread out over two years with a 2.5 increase retroactive to July 2016, a 1.5 increase in July 2017 and .5 increase in January 2018.
Also included in the MOU is an increase in chief officer certificate and fire marshal certificate pay from $155 per employee to $280, and an additional $25 payment per employee per pay period to a Retirement Medical Trust Fund.
In all, new contract terms will cost the city $63,200 this year, $24,800 in 2017 and $3,600 in 2018.
Fire management directs 32 on-duty firefighters per day to cover 20,000-plus annual emergency calls. Firefighters are equipped with six engines, two quint ladder trucks and five ambulances.
The total number of firefighters dropped by 10 in April when City Council did not extend funds to cover an expired Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, which paid the extra salaries.
The skeleton crew of on-duty firefighters has stretched the department. It is required that 14 personnel are on scene during a fire response. This makes it difficult to respond to multiple fires, which is happening with more frequency.
Overtime pay is used by the department to call in additional personnel when needed. This is more cost effective than paying salary and benefits to more firefighters, but has received criticism from some council members.
City officials have assured the public the number of firefighters is sufficient. Some have added they would like to bring the additional 10 firefighters back, and have 35 on duty per day.
Oceanside is also in the process of hiring a new fire chief after former Chief Darryl Hebert retired in May.
The city has narrowed the search to the three top candidates including its Interim Chief Rick Robertson.