Letter City Budget

CBC Urges Gov. Cuomo to Veto Arbitrary Training Mandate for Firefighters

September 29, 2010

Hon. David A. Paterson
Executive Chamber
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

I am writing on behalf of the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) to recommend that you veto A9885/S6784, which was delivered for action on September 20, 2010. The bill mandates that New York City firefighters be provided an additional 80 hours of training on the Building and Fire Codes that took effect on July 1, 2008. Having firefighters well-trained to protect New Yorkers is a goal that the CBC supports, but this mandated training is an arbitrary addition to existing preparation that is unnecessary and financially burdensome.

Civilian inspectors within the Department of Buildings (DOB) and Fire Department's (FDNY) Bureau of Fire Prevention are primarily responsible for enforcing the Building and Fire Codes. Of the total 222,114 inspections conducted by the FDNY in fiscal year 2010, nearly three-quarters were completed by civilian inspectors; these inspectors already received 180 hours of specialized training. In addition, all fire officers have already received 16 hours of training on the new codes. The new mandate imposed by the pending bill is not essential to effective enforcement of the codes, and it usurps the authority of the Mayor and Fire Commissioner to determine an adequate degree of training for their staff.

The City estimates the cost of this legislation to be $29.5 million. Most of the expense arises because the training will require overtime payments to firefighters. Existing rules require that the training either be provided on overtime or that the firefighters assigned to training on their regular shifts be replaced in the firehouses with additional staff scheduled on overtime. The added overtime increases current year wages and fringe benefits by almost $19 million, and it generates higher future pension costs because firefighters retiring in the coming year will have an additional 80 hours of overtime included in the final year's salary on which their pensions will be based. With pension costs already one of the fastest growing items in the City's budget, projected to grow nearly 20 percent to over $8 billion in 2014, the City should not be mandated to create further increases due to non-essential training.

Simply put, this bill arbitrarily creates overtime in a department where overtime regularly exceeds budget allocations without providing adequately justified benefits to New Yorkers. With that bottom line in mind, I urge you to veto A9885/S6784.


Carol Kellermann