A plea for help

Chico’s police and firefighters should offer wage concessions

As the City Council struggled with adopting a budget that calls for employee layoffs that will impact a number of city services, Administrative Services Director Chris Constantin mentioned that the annual average pay for police officers is $97,000 plus benefits and $117,000 plus benefits for firefighters, while the median income in Chico is just $36,000. That’s per household, which could mean a husband, wife and a couple of kids. That is also some serious disparity.

The numbers are too hard to ignore in these days of spending cuts and losses of city services. Yes, we need police and fire protection; those services are already too lean for a city the size of Chico. And we need to be able to offer incentives to attract competent candidates for the jobs. And, indeed, fighting crime and fighting fires are dangerous jobs. But we also think the salaries are way out of whack for the local economy, thus presenting a great opportunity to reduce city spending.

Police officers, firefighters and their families are part of the community and must recognize that they, too, will be affected by cuts in city services. The Chico Police Officers Association (CPOA) did come forward earlier this month with an offer to the city to temporarily pay for some benefits, but it was an offer that Councilman Sean Morgan said would cost the city more in the long run.

Morgan noted that the CPOA is the only city-employee group to come forward with any offer of help at this point. Perhaps now that the City Council has instructed city staff to look into ways to finance hiring six more officers, CPOA will act in kind with an offer of pay and benefit reductions to help the city through these troubled times, and the firefighters will follow suit.