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California Overtime Pay for Lifeguards, Firefighters under Scrutiny

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Newport Beach, CAWith the city of Newport Beach, California, currently considering making cuts to its budget, one issue that has come to the attention of many officials is the overtime pay of local firefighters.

According to the Daily Pilot, the city's fire operations division overreached its overtime budget by approximately $1 million during the previous two fiscal years, and is on pace to do so again this year. Last year, the city reportedly spent $3.6 million in overtime pay for firefighters and paramedics.

Fire Chief Mike Morgan told the news source that the two major types of overtime pay for firefighters and paramedics occur when days off are taken and when the department suffers a vacancy. He added that most fire departments need to have a certain number of personnel on site at all times.

Demetrious Shaffer, the president-elect of the California Fire Chiefs Association, added that it was standard practice for overtime pay to cover days off for firefighters.

"Most people don't understand why we pay overtime," Shaffer explained. "You can't just not have firefighters on duty, and expect to call 911 and get firefighters to respond to your call."

Still, some members of the city council are seeking reviews of overtime guidelines for all departments in the city.

"We need to revisit our staff plans and our standard operating procedures to be sure we are being the most efficient," councilman Keith Curry said at a recent study session.

Firefighters and paramedics are not the only groups being scrutinized for California overtime pay policies, as the high rate of pay for lifeguards in Newport Beach is also being looked at, according to The Associated Press.

The news source reports that some of Newport Beach's full-time lifeguards make more than $200,000 in salary, benefits and overtime pay. As a result, many are questioning whether budget cuts can also be made to lifeguard salaries and benefits as well as those of firefighters and paramedics.

However, Brent Jacobsen, president of the Lifeguard Management Association, told the news source that the salaries are justified due to the skill and overall importance of the lifeguards at the beach.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of disinformation out there," Jacobsen said. "People get this idea that we're talking about 17-year-old kids in lifeguard towers making $200,000 and that's not correct. We're professional level. Lifeguarding here is different than any other place in the entire world."

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