California Fire Chief Not Allowed to Take a Pay Cut

SHASTA LAKE, Calif. -- Directors with the Shasta Lake Fire Protection District won't let Chief Adrian Rogers, or anyone else, take a pay cut to ease the struggling department's financial woes. Rogers, 44, is paid about $67,000 per year gross salary, according to budget documents.

Chief since 2005, he self-imposed the pay cut in March to "lead by example" as the district is facing a year-over-year drop in property tax funding, the primary source of revenue, he's said.

Yet board members weren't willing to let the chief impose the cut, they quickly decided at their meeting Monday night.

Rogers said Wednesday he'll reinstate his full pay but won't apply it retroactively.

Director Steve Morgan said Wednesday it wasn't right to accept the concession from Rogers, who's overworked and underpaid, even as other local agencies are imposing employee cuts to help ravaged budgets.

"We just felt that it wasn't necessary at this time.

We're making it through, and we just have to see what comes along," Morgan said. Board members on Monday also directed Rogers to take his department vehicle home at night so he can respond to emergency calls without first having to return to the Ashby Court station.

Rogers abandoned the practice of using his department truck for the short commute from his home to the fire station after Shasta Lake residents questioned the practice. People were upset at the chief using a taxpayer-funded truck for his commute, Rogers has said.

"No. 1, I don't think the chief should take a 5 percent pay (cut). I definitely want to go on record; the fire chief better keep the chief's truck at his residence so he can respond to calls. ... And if anyone from the public doesn't like it, tough," said Director Jack Ferguson.

Board Chairman Dan Emry agreed, adding directors would need to renegotiate Rogers' contract to allow for the cut, which they weren't willing to do in the first place.

"It's business of the fire district, and I think it's our decision," he said. Directors also recently rejected a separate 5 percent cut offered by union firefighters to avert the planned layoff of an engineer.

"I think both offers were extraordinary, and that shows, to me, that the staff on this district are the highest quality that this public could hope to have working for them," Emry said at Monday's meeting. "I appreciate it very much, and I'm not sure the public is fully aware of what has been offered by this board."

Board members have said district firefighters are already paid little compared with nearby fire departments, creating strong temptation to leave for agencies with higher pay. Redding firefighters at the top of their pay ranges earn more than double the salaries for the same positions in Shasta Lake, according to pay figures from both departments. Hourly engineers in Redding top out at nearly $80,000, while the same position pays about $39,000 in Shasta Lake.

"The board knows that if their pay is low, as soon as there are openings, they'll go," Rogers said Wednesday.

The board decided to pull some $35,000 out of the district's reserve fund to avoid the layoff and pay cuts.

That money comes out of the roughly $170,000 "dry period" funding, typically used to pay district bills from July to December while the agency waits for its annual disbursement of tax money.

Rogers has cautioned directors against taking the money from the district's reserve fund, especially with no guarantee tax revenue will increase. The district could face borrowing money from the county to meet unfunded needs.