Wichita Fire Administrators' Pay Raises Questioned

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Significant salary increases the past 18 months for several highly paid Wichita Fire Department administrators are being scrutinized.

One top official earned a raise topping 36 percent. It's a situation that has other firefighters fired up since it comes at a time when other city jobs are being cut altogether.

As the city continues to look for ways to trim the budget, more than $20-million has already been slashed from the general fund over the last two years. Some jobs and services have vanished completely.

Wichita Firefighters are currently working under an expired contract. The union's request for firefighters to be given a 1% wage increase - denied.

"The message that there are no funds available to the fire department personnel is very clear and has been sent to us in a variety of forms," said IAFF Local 135 president Rocky Bumgarner. "But when we talk about these raises, upwards of $30,000 in 18 months, that makes it look like there are funds available."

Those raises were for top fire department administrators.

At the end of 2009, Deputy Chief Ron Aaron was making $80,600. His salary was brought up to $90,813 in 2010 and he received another raise this year. His salary is currently $98,629, for a total salary increase of more than 21 percent.

Division Chief Bill Wenzel's 2009 salary was at $70,918. In 2010, he was bumped up to $82,287 and he now makes $98,525 in 2011 for a total salary increase of more than 35.5 percent.

Brad Crisp, as a captain paid hourly in 2009, was promoted two ranks to Fire Marshal. At the time of his promotion, he was making $66,903, which doesn't include overtime and other extras. But after two raises, he now makes a salary of $92,948, which is an increase of nearly 38 percent.

Chief Ron Blackwell defends his decision to increase the salaries above the typical six percent per rank promotion.

"There should be an analysis of each and every penny that comes into this building," Blackwell said. "But what was done here is consistent with the city's policies. These employees have taken on increased responsibilities."

Bumgarner doesn't deny that the employees deserve to be paid more for their promotions, but he believes these increases are unprecedented.

"These raises here, if these personnel received the same 6%, we wouldn't be here at all," he explained. "These raises are much more than six percent."

KAKE News did speak with City Manager Robert Layton today, who told us that he will likely scrutinize any city salary increases that are more than 6-10 percent in the future. Layton made his comments right after today's city council meeting in which all council members and Mayor Carl Brewer deferred their annual pay raises due to the continued rough times at City Hall.

Layton also cited a 2010 mediator's fact finding report that found the city justified in giving the raises. However, the union cites another example in which an employee was promoted from rank-and-file to administration.

Over the last two years, Elizabeth (Tammy) Snow was promoted two steps from captain to division chief. Public records provided by the union indicate she received an across-the-board six percent per-step increase for each promotion and an additional one percent cost-of-living increase in 2011. Snow's 2011 salary stands well below her counterparts at $76,684.30.

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