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August 2, 2015

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Study: County firefighters’ average compensation dips to $175,000 from $189,000

A new employee compensation study by Clark County administrators shows average firefighter compensation dipped to $175,000 in 2011 from about $189,000 in fiscal year 2010.

Almost all of the decline stems from a drop in overtime pay to firefighters. During the last two years, overtime compensation for firefighters fell from $17.4 million in 2009 to $10.5 million in 2011. In 2009, overtime made up 24 percent of a firefighters' wages; in 2011, it made up 15 percent.

The decline can be traced, in large part, to firefighters calling in sick less often. Over the last two years, firefighters called in sick a total of 57,000 fewer hours.

When co-workers are called to fill-in for a sick firefighter, they typically receive overtime payments — which is 1.5 times their regular, hourly wage. They can also qualify for "callback pay," under which they not only get overtime but also a contribution to their retirement account.

It was a past compensation report that revealed Clark County’s firefighters were calling in sick almost twice as often as rank-and-file county employees and at about four times the rate of management. The figures prompted Commissioner Steve Sisolak to claim firefighters were gaming the system in an effort to accrue more overtime. E-mail among firefighters and their supervisors showed some were planning sick leaves far in advance, and combining them with vacation time.

The 44-page compensation report breaks down the wages and benefits of 11 categories of county employee.

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