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Home > Topics > Legislation & Funding
June 10, 2014

Study: Boston fire most expensive in U.S.

Most of the money is not going to those in the field, but to supervisors and administrators, with 148 earning more than the governor’s annual salary of $150,800

By EMS1 Staff

BOSTON — A new $92 million union agreement for Boston Fire and EMS makes it the most expensive emergency services department in the country.

With retroactive pay raises, Boston’s payroll is twice as high as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, wcvb.com reports. It stems from the fact that out of the top 30 largest cities in the country, Boston is one of only three with separate fire and EMS departments, said Gregory Sullivan, the former Massachusetts inspector general who now works at a research director at the Pioneer Institute, which conducted the study of Boston’s fire and EMS finances.

“This collective bargaining agreement is outrageous,” Sullivan said. He also noted that much of the money is going to the city’s emergency leaders, and not those in the field.

While firefighters’ salaries are comparable to other cities, a district chief in Boston makes $162,118 per year. That’s compared with $95,193 in Baltimore, $131,552 in Chicago and $146,583 in New York.

The Pioneer Institute reported that 148 fire department supervisors and administrators earn more than $150,800 annually — which is Gov. Deval Patrick’s salary — and 256 will earn more than $137,985, which is Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan’s salary.

“What this represents to me,” Sullivan said, “is financial generosity to the extreme, going to people who don’t directly fight fires, the brass. The brass is overstaffed and it’s overpaid.”

Boston Firefighter’s Union President Richard Paris declined repeated requests for comment. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who negotiated the union contract, said the fact that Boston spent the most in the country on emergency responders was not a surprise. Once a new commissioner is in place, he said they will take a close look at the expenses and make changes to bring down costs.

“I figured we would be in the top five,” Walsh said. “We have the most trained and skilled fire department I think in the country. 

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