Irvine could receive discounts worth as much as $280 million after 17 years of overpaying the Orange County Fire Authority, according to a new proposal drafted to keep the city in the 24-member agency, as reported by the O.C. Register.
Irvine is overpaying for fire protection by at least $18.4 million – subsidizing the costs of other communities under a complex tax system that could cause the city to break with the Orange County Fire Authority. The city and OCFA don’t agree just how much Irvine is being overtaxed, with the Fire Authority calculating the overage at $18.4 million in 2010-11, while Irvine says it is closer to $35 million annually, according to the O.C. Register.
There are major potential problems that could impact the OCFA’s existence and maybe even lead to its termination, according to an inside source that tipped us off:
- Other cities are now exploring whether they also are entitled to equitable relief.
- If Irvine sets up its own Fire Dept., neighboring cities like Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Rancho Santa Margarita and Laguna Niguel would have a cost incentive to join the Irvine Fire Dept. to reduce their costs since the new fire department would probably:
a) Not be paying over $300,000 for battalion chiefs and over $250,000 for fire captains.
b) No minimum staffing rules would be part of their union agreement. Hence, overtime costs would be greatly reduced.
c) No 24 hour work schedules would be part of the union agreement. Huge wage savings would accrue since there would be no need to have full staffs during the latter portion of the night when few responses are made.
d) Workers would not be given the generous pensions they enjoy now. These cities would then have money to spend on their own capital projects from their fire cost savings.
The bottom line is if Irvine sets up its own Fire Department the OCFA probably collapses. And in the end that will be a good thing for all of us, although I expect that the pampered OCFA union firefighters might disagree with that notion.