A look at San Luis Obispo’s top-paid employees

Posted at 6:25 PM, Sep 04, 2018

Who are the highest paid employees in the City of San Luis Obispo and how much are your city tax dollars paying for?

Among the top 35 gross salaries in the City of San Luis Obispo, two employees are in the San Luis Obispo Police Department, seven are city department heads, and 15 of the top 25 paid employees work for the City of San Luis Obispo Fire Department.

Within the top 25, salaries range from $173,330 to $241,173.

For hourly employees like a battalion chief, captain, engineer, or firefighter, overtime can beef up a paycheck.

One San Luis Obispo City Fire captain’s overtime pay for 2017 was $125,091, which more than doubled his regular pay of $96,015.

"Our firefighters are working really long hours for really long, sustained periods of time,” said Deputy Chief Keith Aggson.

He says a revolving door of deployments and vacancies within the department creates the need for overtime pay.

"Those are hours that they’re away from their families, that we’re mandating that they’re here to help cover so that our coverage within the community remains at a high level at all times,” Aggson added.

Soaring overtime budgets is an increasing trend throughout the state. Overall, San Luis Obispo County saw a 92 percent rise in overtime pay from 2012 to 2017, an increase of $3 million.

Some pay is reimbursed by state tax dollars when city fire employees are deployed to battle massive wildfires like the Thomas Fire and Mendocino Complex Fire.

“We receive the reimbursement not only in the overtime but also in the use of our vehicles and our administrative costs of administering that program, so the hiring, the training, and the outfitting of that personnel,” Aggson said.

One fire captain made about $215,000 in 2017. Approximately $65,000 of that came from mutual aid.

In all, the San Luis Obispo City Fire Department was reimbursed $710,000 by the state for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Come November, San Luis Obispo Fire Department leaders hope to cut down on overtime pay by hiring more people. They plan to hire eight new firefighters to fill vacancies and to create somewhat of a cushion in the schedule.

"With the additional firefighter that will help expand that and our ability to help provide additional service to communities that need but also to cover our shifts,” Aggson said.

In a time where fire has no season, it’s more important than ever to keep the home front protected.

“Really in the last eight to 10 years, we’ve really seen a spike, an increase in fires, the number of fires and the length of fire season,” Aggson said.