Employment Conditions of Policemen and Firemen
Compensation, Conditions of Employment and Retirement Benefits of Firemen
IN only five cities in the United States are firemen employed on a three-platoon basis where they work six days a week, eight hours daily and forty-eight hours weekly. These five cities are New York, Toledo, Ohio; Erie, Pa.; Wilkes Barre, Pa., and Binghamton, N. Y. The threeplatoon system in New York City is only partially operative at the present time and will not be in full force for the entire department until December 31, 1939. Prior to 1937, the entire New York Fire Department was on a two-platoon basis and worked an average of eighty-four hours per week. New York allows twenty-one days vacation yearly with pay. The other four cities allow fourteen days yearly with pay.
Washington, D. C., is the most liberal of all of the cities with respect to vacations. That city allows twentysix days with pay. Washington firemen have one regular day off weekly in addition. Duluth, Minn., and Raleigh, N. C., allow only seven days vacation with pay. In Duluth they have only one day off monthly in addition to their vacation, while in Raleigh they are allowed no regular days off. Quincy, I11., with no regular days off, allows eight days vacation with pay. Montgomery, Ala.; Cranston, R. I., and Hagerstown, Md., allow no vacation whatever with pay and no regular days off.
Syracuse, N. Y., allows twenty-two days vacation with one regular day off weekly, llamtramck, Mich., allows twenty-four days vacation with no regular days off. With the exception of Washington, D. C.; Syracuse, N. Y., and Hamtramck, Mich., twenty-one days is the maximum vacation allowance. This is the allowance in New York, Kansas City, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; Atlantic City, N. J., and Topeka, Kan. In over eight out of every ten cities of the United States, the annual vacation allowance is two weeks or fifteen days.
There is no uniformity throughout the country with respect to the number of years firemen must serve before they become eligible for retirement. Twenty cities have no retirement plan. Four cities, Kenosha, Wis.; Salem, Mass.; Newport News, Va., and Middletown, Conn., permit retirement only for disability. In Louisville, Ky., retirement is discretionary with the pension board. Only fifteen years of service are required before retirement in Harrisburg, Pa.; Portsmouth, Ohio, and Hagerstown, Md., while Altoona, Pa., requires as much as forty-four years of service, under certain circumstances, before firemen are eligible to retire. Thirtyfive per cent of the cities permit retirement after twenty years of service or less, regardless of age. In fortyseven per cent of the cities, a fireman must serve twenty-two years or more, regardless of age. In the balance of the cities, retirement is permitted after twenty years or twenty-five years upon reaching a certain age, which ranges from fifty to sixty years.
The Citizens’ Budget Committee of New York City recently made a study of compensation, conditions of employment and retirement benefits of policemen and firemen in 293 cities in the United States.
Believing that the comparative data on the two branches of municipal service compiled by the Committee will be of interest to members of the Fire Service throughout the country, FIRE ENGINEERING plans to publish serially the essential portions of the tabulation. This third article treats of the Fire Service. Subsequent articles will consist of salary and other tabulations for both policemen and firemen.
Among the cities of a million population or more, New York, Chicago, I11., and Philadelphia, Pa., permit retirement after twenty years of service. Detroit, Mich., requires twenty-five years. Los Angeles, Cal., requires from twenty-five to thirty-five years. In the eight cities with population from 500,000 to a million, St. Louis, Mo., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Buffalo, N. Y., permit retirement after twenty years of service. The other five cities require twenty-five years or more. In Baltimore, Md., the firemen are not eligible to retire until they reach sixty vears of age. In the eleven cities, exclusive of Jersey City, N. J., with populations between 300,000 and 500,000, Minneapolis, Minn.; New Orleans, La.; Kansas City, Mo., and Portland, Ore., permit retirement after twenty years.
The majority of the 288 cities have no compulsory old age retirement provision. In those cities which have such a provision, the age ranges from fifty-five years in Sioux Falls, S. D., to seventy-two years in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Financing of Pensions
There is a wide variation throughout the country in the methods of financing pensions for firemen. Over 70 per cent, or 188, of the cities require a contribution based upon the amount of the annual salary. Such contributions range from a low of of 1 per cent in Cleveland, Ohio, to as high as 14 3/4 per cent in Pasadena, Cal. In 61 cities, the firemen make no contribution whatever. Sixteen of these cities are in Ohio and 12 are in Massachusetts. Among the twenty-four largest cities in the United States, only New York and Detroit, Mich., require no contribution from the firemen. A number of cities require a fixed annual contribution which ranges from $6 in the case of Louisville, Ky., to from $80 to $120 in Stockton. Cal.
Firemen in cities in New York State who are members of the New York State Employees’ Retirement System, contribute from 3.72 per cent to 6.16 per cent of their annual salary. In cities in the State of New Jersey, firemen uniformly contribute four per cent of their annual salary. The State of Oregon enacted a law, effective in 1937, requiring a minimum contribution by employees of four per cent of salary. Of twenty cities in Ohio, only four require a contribution by the firemen.
Under an act passed by the Legislature of the State of Massachusetts in 1934, all non-contributory retirement systems in Massachusetts, except for judges of the courts, ceased to be open to new employees after December 31, 1937. Present employees may continue to enjoy the protection of a present non-contributory system. Effective January 1, 1938, therefore, the information shown in tables to lie published in later issues, with respect to those cities in Massachusetts where the firemen make no contribution toward the cost of their pensions, does not apply to new employees in those cities.
Cities and Men Contribute to Cost
While firemen in New York and Detroit contribute nothing toward the cost of their pensions, firemen in Chicago, I11., contribute four and threequarters per cent of their salary, in Philadelphia more than three and one-quarter per cent and in Los Angeles four per cent of their salary. Contributions by firemen in the cities with populations between 500,000 and a million range from one-half of one per cent in Cleveland, Ohio, to four and five-eighths per cent in Milwaukee, Wis. The only other city in this group where the contribution is less than three per cent is St. Louis, Mo., which requires a two per cent contribution. Washington, D. C., requires a contribution of three and onehalf per cent and in Newark, N. J.; Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., firemen contribute four per cent of their salaries.
About 40 per cent, 109, of the cities throughout the country make a deficiency appropriation to finance the cost of firemen’s pensions over and above the contributions by the firemen. Seven cities, including Buffalo, N. Y.; Washington, D. C., and Cincinnati, Ohio, credit to the pension fund certain revenues from sources within and without the Fire Department and make a deficiency appropriation in addition. In New York City the pension fund receives annually about a million and a half dollars in miscellaneous revenues and the deficiency is made up by the city and financed through the issuance of special revenue bonds redeemable the following year.
Twelve cities make no contribution whatever toward the cost of firemen’s pensions. Among these cities are Kansas City, Mo.; Miami, Fla.; Peoria, I11., and Charlotte, N. C. St. Louis, Mo., makes an appropriation only for disability pensions. Fortyeight cities, including Boston, Mass.; Pittsburgh, Pa., and Providence, R. I., contribute on an equal basis with the firemen. In Knoxville, Tenn., the firemen contribute three per cent of their salary and the City two per cent. In Covington, Ky., the firemen contribute two per cent and the city one per cent.
The percentage of salary contributed by the city ranges as high as 12 1/8 per cent in Milwaukee, Wis., and 12.78 per cent in Sacramento, Cal. A few cities make a fixed appropriation, as is the case in Wilmington, Del., with a $5,000 appropriation by the city, in Wheeling, W. Va., with a $2,500 appropriation and in Pueblo, Col., with a $3,000 appropriation. Cities in the state of New Jersey contribute four per cent of salary, as do the firemen and in a few instances make a deficiency appropriation as well. In Indiana, the contribution by the city is limited to the equivalent of two cents on every one hundred dollars of assessed valuation, although Indianapolis reports a contribution of two mills of each taxable dollar. In Ohio, the State law fixes the contribution by the city at not more than the equivalent of a three-tenth mill tax levy.
Cost Met by Tax on Fire Insurance
In twenty-four of the cities, the public’s share of the cost is met by a tax on fire insurance premiums. This is true in Philadelphia, Pa., and Denver, Col. Some of the cities report a deficiency appropriation in addition to the revenues from this source. Other cities, including New Orleans, La., and St. Joseph, Mo., finance their share of the cost through the collection of license fees and other special taxes. In High Point, N. C., where the firemen make no contribution toward the cost of their pensions, the entire income for retirement pay has been received from a one dollar tax on each warrant issued for violation of the criminal laws of the city and state.
Marion, Ohio, Abolishes Pensions
Marion, Ohio, abolished pensions by action of its City Council in 1936, on the ground that pensions are a gratuity. The Common Pleas Court upheld the action of the Council and an appeal has been taken to the Court of Appeals. Louisville, Ky., among a number of other cities, is endeavoring to place its pension system on a sound contributory basis. In 1936 contributions for pensions in Louisville amounted to over $76,000, while the contribution by the policemen and firemen amounted to slightly more than $2,500.
Basis of Retirement Allowance
In 225 cities, 78 per cent of the total, the annual retirement allowance payable to firemen after service retirement, is 50 per cent or less of their final salary. Some cities base the retirement allowance upon the average salary of the last five years of service, as in the case of Philadelphia, Pa.; Altoona, Pa., allows $2.25 per month for each year of service, Stockton, Cal., allows from three to four dollars per month for each year of service. Cities in the State of New York, whose firemen are members of the New York State Employees’ Retirement System, pay a retirement allowance of l/70th of the average annual salary of the last five years of service, multiplied by the number of years of service. Some cities pay a fixed sum, regardless of salary. This is true of St. Louis, Mo., which pays $600 a year; Pittsburgh, Pa., which pays $960 a year, and a number of other cities. St. Petersburg, Fla., makes the most liberal provision, with a retirement allowance of 75 per cent of the salary.
In Omaha, Neb., under State Law, firemen receive a pension of fifty per cent of a $180 monthly salary, which was the basic salary at the time the law took effect. The present basic salary is only $130 per month. The law with respect to firemen differs from that of policemen, who receive a pension of fifty per cent of their actual salary.
Seventy per cent of the cities, a total of 200, provide an annual retirement allowance of not more than 50 per cent for retirement on account of disability incurred in line of duty. Los Angeles, Cal., grants disability retirement allowances ranging from 10 per cent to 90 per cent of the salary. Miami, Fla., pays 100 per cent of the salary. Lorain, Ohio, pays 100 per cent annually, up to the scheduled time of retirement. Cities in New York State which are members of the State Retirement System pay an annual retirement allowance equal to 75% of the average salary of the last five years of service.
Only four cities, New York City, Chicago, I11.; Sacramento, Cal., and St. Petersburg, Fla., pay a life-time disability retirement allowance of 75 per cent of the final salary. Of the 24 largest cities in the United States, with populations in excess of 300,000, exclusive of Jersey City, N. J., 16 cities pay not more than 50% of final salary for disability rctairement.
Correction of an Error
To the Editor:
We have just read an article in the April issue of FIRE ENGINEERING, which deals with employment conditions of police and Firemen, and the data seems to have been received from the Citizens Budget Committee of New York City. It is a very good article and has much valuable information, but we noticed where it mentions that the firemen of Beaumont are on duty sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. This information is not correct. These men work the double shift, ten hours on, fourteen off each day, working a full 24 hours on Monday every other week or at the most 84 hours a week.
The information either given to the Citizens Budget Committee was wrong or they made the mistake in their own office. While it does not make any particular difference to us. it still gives a bad impression concerning the working conditions here with other cities.
I am merely calling this to your attention, so that this erroneous information may not be published again. I would appreciate your calling it to the attention of the Citizens Budget Committee. Yours Truly
S. D. O’CONOR,
Chief, Beaumont, Tex.
To the Editor:
Referring to the article appearing in the April issue of FIRE ENGINEERING entitled “Employment Conditions of Policemen and Firemen”, I wish to correct a statement appearing in the third paragraph which says:
“With this sole exception, the highest entrance salary paid to firemen in any city in the United States is $2,300, in Bloomfield and Hackensack, N. J., in both of which cities the salaries of firemen range from $2,300 to $2,500.”
While I do not propose to criticize the above statement as it refers to salaries of Bloomfield firemen, this is quite untrue as it relates to salaries in Hackensack.
Entrance salaries paid to firemen in this latter city as adopted by referendum in 1926 are as follows:
Firemen: 1st Grade, $2,000; 2nd Grade.
$2,100; 3rd Grade, $2,300.
Drivers: 1st Grade, $2,100: 2nd Grade.
$2,200; 3rd Grade. $2,500.
I do not profess to know from where the Citizens’ Budget Committee of New York City got its information, but confirmation of the above figures may he obtained by writing to Miss Ethel M. Hoyt, City Clerk, City Hall, Hackensack, N. J.
Very truly yours,
O. A. RIPPERGER,
112 Union Street,
Hackensack, N. J.