Council Majority decided to go against joining the Orange County Fire Authority and instead retain the Fullerton Fire Department during the October 2022 Council Meeting.
Before the October decision, the Fullerton Fire Department has been asking City Council to contract out fire services with the Orange County Fire Authority, citing problems with retention and financial sustainability with the City’s department.
Since the City will be retaining the Fullerton Fire Department, some significant changes will be an 8% across-the-board pay increase effective the first pay period after January 1, 2023, and subsequent pay increases of 4% in July and annually after that. The agreement would cost the City an extra $12,406,932.
During Public Comments, Joshua Ferguson said how the item, if passed, would not be adequately funded as the City is in a deficit and would need a tax, “This item is a slap in the face… you’re blowing a 1.8 million dollar hole in a budget, that already has a structural deficit (we spend more than we bring in) and then the next year it’s a 2.8 million dollar hole in the budget then 3.8, it just keeps going up, and there is no way to fund it.”
Councilmember Ahmad Zahra said, “If we had gone with OCFA, we would have everything we need immediately, but now we’re just gradually having to build this up over the next five years. One can predict that in five years (because of inflation), our firefighters will remain underpaid unless in five years we do another significant jump, and Mr. Ferguson is right in the sense of how are we going to pay for all of that”. Zahra later said that this plan, in his opinion, is less than what they deserve and is less than adequate, but it is all we can do at this point.
Councilmember Dr. Shana Charles mentioned that during her election, she was endorsed by the Fire Fighter association and was in support of the movement of the OCFA and was disappointed in the vote by the council to not go with OCFA. She later thanked the firefighters for their dedication to staying with the City, taking pride in it, and wanting to rebuild the fire department.
Charles said, “This is our best compromise, considering our situation.”
Councilmember Nick Dunlap said, “I won’t be supporting the item tonight. But, unfortunately, the costs are too extreme, and I think this will be very challenging for the City to deal with; unfortunately, it wouldn’t surprise me if what was mentioned by some of the commenters was that this is a backdoor tax.
Councilmember Zahra motioned to approve, and Councilmember Charles seconded, passing 3-2.
Jung, Zahra, Charles: Yes
Whitaker, Dunlap: No