Firefighters and police are city’s top wage earners


By Charles Sercombe

It’s nine months into the city’s budget year – which started July 1 – and for some firefighters and police officers, it will be a very good year.

Money-wise that is.

A review of the city’s employee earnings summary for the 2012-2013 budget year reveals that so far some firefighters have earned as much as $60,000 to a little over $76,000.

There are still three months to go in the fiscal year.

Several of the firefighters also are doing well on overtime, reaping in $7,000 to $8,000.

On top of that, their benefits are also generous. Firefighters get $1,500 a year for clothing, and thousands for their birthday, holiday pay, unused time off, unused sick days and filling in on ambulance duty.

Police officers were no slouches either in racking up thousands of dollars in overtime and various perks.

One officer earned over $21,000 in overtime pursuing narcotics investigations. (This overtime is not paid through the city’s general fund, but instead from a special Drug Forfeiture Fund.)

The above figures don’t include the cost for health insurance or pension contributions that the city is required to pay.

While some overtime costs are offset by special funds, including the volunteer overtime patrol, the addition of overtime pay is included in the yearly salary and later used to calculate how much police officers and firefighters will earn in retirement.

Some 51 police and fire retirees earn at least $45,000 a year, with one retired fire chief earning over $112,000 a year.

Those who are much further down on the earnings list are City Hall employees – the clerks and laborers. They earn about $30,000 a year and take in nominal overtime earnings, if any at all.

That’s still better than what the average Hamtramck resident earns. According to the 2010 Census, the average salary is a little over $24,000 a year.

The cost of supporting city employees has contributed to the city’s deficit spending, and in a few weeks could lead to payless paydays.

City Councilmember Robert Zwolak, who years ago took a nominal buyout from the city after serving as city clerk for a number of years, blamed the city’s financial woes on the generous wages and perks past city officials have signed off on.

He also lashed out at department heads for not “monitoring overtime on a daily basis.”

He said that since police and fire chiefs work their way up through the ranks, “It’s a good old boys’ club.”

At this point, the city is getting a financial review from state officials. It’s expected that the state will appoint an emergency manager to take control of city finances.

It’s also expected that the state will disband the Fire Department and have another agency take over that service.

Zwolak has this advice to the younger members of the Fire Department.

“Find a job in the suburbs where you live,” he said. “You’ll still have an opportunity to maintain a career.”


2 Responses to Firefighters and police are city’s top wage earners

  1. Bill

    April 8, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Everyone wants these public safety services for free.. What do people expect? To have every FF/PO be perpetually 30 years old and in the prime of life? Even if you get hired on at 18, after 25 years of back breaking work your body has had it.. People don’t live forever.. Most can’t get on departments until after completing 2 or 4 years of college, that puts you at nearly 50 when your 25 is up.. Most aren’t chasing bad guys or dragging hoses into burning buildings much past that..

    So the question is, how do you seriously except to lure that 1-5% (arguable) of the population that is truly capable of doing emergency public service into the field? Its not going to be by saying “we will break your body for 25 years, but then your done because you are too old to be doing this stuff physically anymore.. then here’s your under mature 401k which won’t provide for your needs anymore.. and no health benefits.. Thanks for your services and good luck”.. Not much room in the market for 50+ ex public servant, let alone 1000s every year nation wide.. People gotta live

    Lets not forget most emergency services are dual rolled too (FF/medic, FF/PD, PD/medic).. Those require schooling before even getting hired by a department.. PD-6 months to 4 years (you would be surprised how many officers have bachelors) FF-6 months to 4 years, Medic-2 years minimum.. Don’t forget nobody comes right out of the academy a seasoned veteran either.. It takes years of experience, real world experience, beyond formal training.. I ask you, why would anyone be lured into a career like this? Would you? And no correcting spelling/grammar or arguing nonsense tid-bits.. Stick with the heart of the issue please..

  2. Tom Skonieczka

    December 19, 2018 at 11:13 am

    If the pencilpusher who wrote this article thinks that firefighters are overpaid I have a suggestion for you, put your little delicate keyboard down and try the job for 1 day, put your life at risk for 50k, I bet your attitude will change. Next time you need a cop or god forbid are in a car accident and the first responders save your ass, you should first ask how much they get paid.

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