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OPINION: Tax dollars up in smoke – Firefighter pay is on fire


by Geoffrey Lawrence – Nevada Policy Research Institute

At a time when local governments across Nevada are reducing service levels and laying off employees, salaries for unionized firefighters throughout the Las Vegas Valley are continuing to sizzle.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute annually receives public employee payroll records from local governments across the state in response to public-records requests. The data NPRI has received for 2009 — which will soon be available for viewing online at TransparentNevada.com — reveals that an alarming trend continues. Firefighter pay in the Las Vegas Valley is exorbitant and far out of line with any reasonable benchmarking metric.

The Clark County Fire Department employed 739 full-time firefighters in 2009. Of that number, 565 (76.5 percent) received total wages in excess of $100,000. While the $63,433 in base pay that the average firefighter received might be reasonable, the average firefighter was able to more than double that amount on the final paycheck — receiving pay for longevity, paramedic training and other allowances, as well as $25,688 in call back and overtime — to collect $129,476 in total pay.  Including the $43,422 in benefits, the average firefighter received a total compensation package of $172,898.

Some firefighters took home amounts far greater than the average.

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