How Many Homes Does it Take to Fund a City Service?

It is pretty common to hear from residents, when discussing our City budget: “But i pay my property taxes.” As I have covered before on a prior blog post, your property tax bill does not flow 100 percent to the City. Much of it is taken by the school districts, County, community colleges and special districts. (This does not include various parcel taxes, school bonds, hospital bonds, that are collected via your property tax bill.) Even with all these other government entities taking nearly 90 percent of your property tax, this remaining portion is the number-one source of revenue, by a large measure, for the City of San Jose.

So I got to thinking: How many houses does it take to pay for a city service?

The average single-family home in San Jose (excluding the Redevelopment Areas, such as downtown condos) has a 2010-2011 assessed value of about $356,000. This combines newly assessed properties as well as grandfathered pre-Prop 13 homes.  Of the 1 percent secured property tax levied on those homes, the City receives approximately 12 percent of the tax revenue. That works out to around $427 per home.

Using an average annual cost per full time firefighter of $185,000, it takes 433 homes to support one firefighter. However we do not staff a one-engine fire station with one firefighter in San Jose 24/7, 365 days a year.  We staff it with 14 fire fighters to cover all of the shifts, vacation, sick time, etc…throughout the year. Therefore it takes 6,062 houses to cover just the staffing of a one engine fire station—and that does not include the cost of the fire engine. 6,062 houses is almost an entire Zip Code that is needed to pay for one fire station with no money to fund asphalt for roads, electricity for street lights, police, libraries,etc.

According to the County Assessor’s office, there are 207,220 single family homes (including owner-occupied housing such as townhouses and condo flats) in San Jose (again excluding the Redevelopment Areas: Downtown, North San Jose & Edenvale). All those homes should generate enough property tax revenue to support 478 firefighters. However the City currently has 660 fire fighters, so all of the property tax generated from all of the City’s single family homes is only sufficient to support 72 percent of the City’s firefighters. Of course, this analysis ignores the property tax we receive from all of the other types of secured property in the City like commercial property. Around 85% of the City’s assessed value (excluding RDA areas) is from residential.

What exacerbates this is approving housing projects that do not pay property tax and suburban sprawl (both of which I have historically voted against).  The higher the density of infill market-rate housing (not affordable housing) the more property taxes generated in a smaller geographic area to pay for city services without expanding city streets, sewers and call for service areas.

How about if we combine all property tax and sales tax? In 2008-2009 all property tax (residential & commercial) and all sales tax covered 82 percent of the fire department and police department budget only. In our 2010-2011 budget year these same revenue sources only paid for 72 percent even though we have less personnel.

Other choices could be used in this analysis, such as the golf cources or the Hayes Mansion, which are two items I think the City should exit.  Both divert money from core services every year.


  1. Good point and article! We need less firefighters and more police officers. Our city’s homicide rate has blown up. I’m scared to go out at night for dinner unless its Santana Row (and I think they pay for their own full time police officer). We need to make sure our police officers are the brightest and most educated around the bay (i.e. hiring top-notch applicants). Its time we invest more in police and less in fire. Maybe a police only parcel tax? Kinda like Oakland.

    Mickey Tyrone (north San Jose resident)

    • Less firefighters….?? Bad idea, we are already the lowest staffed metropolitan dept. in the nation.  As a matter of fact we are number 30 of the top 30 city’s…. Just FYI.

    • Mickey,

      Ideally we would like both but we do not have the ability to fully fund both.  We must make hard choices. Police provide value 24/7 as their presence deters crime among other positive points.  I proposed in the past raising the utility tax only for police on a prior budget survey however there was not enough support as it was below 50% and you need 2/3 if the tax is for a specific department like the library parcel tax.

      The number of qualified people that apply to be police officers is quite lower than the number of qualified people that apply to be a firefighter.  There should be a distinction in the starting salaries of police and fire.

      • Mr. Oliverio you stated “The number of qualified people that apply to be police officers is quite lower than the number of qualified people that apply to be a firefighter.” It is good to hear that you recognize how difficult it is for the SJPD to find qualified candidates. However, I believe it is not for the lack of qualified candidates in the area. I believe that this is a result of other departments recruiting these candidates with the lure of better compensation and benefits. How do you for see SJPD recruiting qualified candidates in the future under a two-tier system that will provide below average compensation and benefits compared to other departments in Santa Clara County? In addition, how is the city preparing for officers to leave the city with the looming budget cuts?

        • Sgt Mahoney,

          In the past we have had more candidates than we can hire. So it is a matter of rearranging the priorities to enable hiring more officers over time. It will be a great challenge to move people off the current paradigms and budget constraints but I believe it will happen over time.

          I believe a 2nd Tier for police should offer higher cash compensation than retirement benefit.  I have found young people starting their career want more cash up front so they can spend it or save it. I believe many would choose San Jose for the higher cash compensation to start and the opportunities that working in a large city offer. A career in law enforcement is a choice and some want to work in a small city and others want a larger city. If we are ever in the situation of not having enough qualified recruits than we raise the cash compensation.

        • Once again, the councilman jumps at the chance to show his ignorance.

          “In the past we have had more candidates than we can hire.”—What past? For most of the past fifteen years (one-half of a career cycle) police agencies have been confronted with shrinking applicant pools and a decline in the quality of those applicants. Despite the attractive pay and benefits so often derided at city hall, the experience was that fewer young people were interested in the job, and fewer of those who were possessed the necessary skills (many possessed grade school vocabularies and writing ability), the required maturity, and desired character traits.

          “… more candidates… ”—You don’t fill police academies with “candidates,” you fill them with selected applicants from an applicant pool. “Selected” is the key word, and it is the selection process that maintains the quality of the police force and provides the public the maximum protection possible when engaging in the necessary but always hazardous proposition of granting significant authority to fallible human beings. A city can have an applicant or candidate pool of 10,000, but if there aren’t fifty hire-worthy applicants in it, it is of no value.

          “I believe many would choose San Jose for the higher cash compensation to start…”—And then what? With 3, 5, 7 years of top-notch training and big city police experience under his belt, a San Jose police officer would be highly marketable to agencies eager to fill their beat cars with proven veterans who require the upfront investment of not a single dime. The allure of leaving behind the filthy, racist politics of San Jose for a city with less violence, better schools, and gang-free neighborhoods will turn SJPD into a tour of duty department, a training and seasoning first stop in a career heading elsewhere. Remove the incentives to stay for thirty and this city will very quickly learn that “career opportunities”—like the chance to work in a variety of investigative units (such as those now being dissolved), won’t sway the little woman at home whose concerns about her family’s financial security will easily trump her husband’s career desires.

          A large contingent of veteran police officers represents an asset that is easy to overlook until it disappears. Should Mr. Oliverio get his way SJPD will eventually windup with a patrol force of excitable rookies trained by rookies, a command staff of second-rate, still trying to get hired elsewhere, duds, and a pension plan from which few will ever draw. It will be open season on the city treasury, and every sleeze-ball attorney who makes his living suing police departments will certainly bag his limit.

  2. It is amazing that all we here every day on the TV and Radio is how important it is for the “rhetoric” to be toned down so good debate can take place and yet Mr. Oliverio continues his same mantra of bashing Firefighters. One would think that this is all he does, think of ways to publicly insult not only Firefighters but every city employee. What purpose does this type of comparison serve? I see there is no mention of what the total budget is, is there? That would be $2.8 Billion for those who do not know that fact. So he choses to take one part of a budget and break it down to how many houses it takes to pay a specific employee. Hmm I wonder how many houses it takes to pay his salary and benefits and yes, retirement. Oh yah I do believe he earns retirement after less than 10 years while he complains about those that can after 20-30 years. Why is there not a page on the city web site showing the average and highest Total Compensation for the City Council and Mayor just like they do with the FD? I guess that would not serve their purpose now would it.
    This individual is the primary reason the city unions can not trust anything the city says. I know I for one have no problem with doing my part and voting in some type of pay concessions but with this guy out there bashing us every day it does make it hard to want to do this.

      • Not true, last offer to the city by the firefighters was the exact amount of money for the cost of the 49 laid off….. The city said NO, they wanted the firefighters to pay for the 4 Engines and 1 Truck they closed as well as the salary’s of the 49 firefighters.

        Since when does a city employee have to pay for very apparatus they drive…?  They never asked the cops to pay for their cars, electricians don’t pay for wire, plumbers don’t pay for pipe…. Get the drift??

        It was only after the city forced a vote to the membership that they voted NO to the pay cut for the simple reason that it was UNFAIR !!!!!  Even the 49 laid off thought so….. those are the facts.

        • Wow, your continued idiocy is absolutely remarkable.  I am officially astounded that you were able to attain the rank that you did.

          Darryl, you are the city’s patsy. Nothing more….. Thanks for your input but you are wrong and it just goes to show everyone the level of ineptness that you are capable of.  Those of us who actually paid attention during this whole mess that you created know the truth…..  The money was offered, they said no, we voted NO… period. I was there, you were not…..

          I don’t have any interest in debating with you over this….. AGAIN.

        • Ernest Beginner,

          Your miss information is amazing, the City never asked the Firefighters to pay for the apparatus they drive.  You are wrong on your figures and the statement that the City wanted the Firefighters to pay for the apparatus.  As the Fire Chief that had to put these very difficult gut wrenching proposals forward, the numbers were for salaries only and did not include the apparatus or any other infrastructure costs.  The amount offered by Local 230 was for about 8 months of salary for 49 entry level Firefighters and would have expired this coming June.  The staffing of apparatus per the MOA requires Captains and Fire Engineers pay steps so having just 49 firefighters for eight months would create other budget issues as there were many demotions that occurred with the reductions that I believe were not taken into consideration in the Unions proposal.  Basically the average personnel costs alone per Fire Company are about 2 million. Therefore 5 companies would be about 10 million ongoing costs (not including the apparatus) while the union offered 4 million on a temporary basis.  The apparatus, maintenance and other infrastructure costs are separate budget line items.  Personnel costs for the Fire Department when I left were about 95.3% of the Fire Departments operating budget.  I also disagree with your statement that the City forced the vote, the City needed to know if there were concessions or not to be able to balance the budget as they are required to do so by law.  If the vote was presented as that the City was looking for the Firefighters to pay for the apparatus as you reference, it sounds like it may have been miss represented to those who voted.

          While I may not agree with the analogy used in this article, the budget problem is real and looks like it will get worse before it gets better.  I know there are solutions out there and I look forward to the day when the Fire staffing can get back to the 2008 level that we fought so hard for. 
          All of the information regarding that the costs are for salaries only can be found and verified on the City of San Jose Labor Relations Website.  The link below will take you one of the letters covering this issue.

        • Ernest,
          The facts remain; the money offered by the Union was one time money, not ongoing.  The City did not ask Firefighters to pay for the apparatus as you state in your initial writing.  If you can dispute the facts in my post you would, but you can’t because they are real.  To pay attention you need to review both sides, not just the union spin.  As I stated, I hope that solutions will eventually be found and the Department can get back to the 2008 staffing levels.

    • PierLuigi and the rest of the council including the mayor are vested in their PERS retirement after only 5 years! Police/fire and other City employees don’t vest in their retirement system until they have worked 10.

      Lets send PLO and all the rest of the first termers on the council don’t get elected to a second term – that way they can’t vest.  For those in their second term or in the case of the Mayor who is vested lets make sure that the clock on contribuitons ends at the end of their current term. I’m really disgusted at how they have been riding the GRAVY TRAIN!!!

      Constant is now collecting a City Disability retirement from his few years as a police officer and is now vested in PERS.

      • I can’t be certain, but I thought ERISA, under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, changed the vesting rules for all pensions to five years.  Perhaps a tax professional can weigh in on this.

      • Council Member may receive two retirement; they’re eligible for a Social Security pension since their special -category- allows receipt of both a City pension after 5-years, and Social Security as well.

        The City rank and file do not receive Social Security, even when contributing for 40+ quarters of “substantial income” SS contributions, because of leglislative exclusions against Civil Servants. The contributions are not refunded, so they may have paid into SS but are excluded from the benefit!

    • > It is amazing that all we here every day on the TV and Radio is how important it is for the “rhetoric” to be toned down so good debate can take place . . .

      You need to listen to the TV and radio more carefully.  They are saying that OTHER PEOPLE’s rhetoric needs to be toned down, but that liberal’s rhetoric is just fine.

  3. Pier,
    In my opinion, your analysis is worthless. All you have done is to skew numbers to come up with your own foregone conclusion. Kind of like your surveys.

    On the other hand, I think our city leaders, including you, have done an absolutely horrendous and terrible job of encouraging business to come to San Jose (aside from “medicinal marijuana” outlets). If want to grow your tax base, our city leaders and you should take a remedial class from Santa Clara leaders, who have over the course of time, have done a fantastic job of encouraging business to locate to Santa Clara (incidentally, Santa Clara council members serve for just a small stipend and no benefits).

    Pier, can you please give examples of what either you, the city council, or mayor, have recently done to increase the tax base and encourage business to come to San Jose? The only thing I can think of is that the city council recently spent $50 million dollars to buy land for a baseball stadium for a team that has not been approved to actually move to San Jose. I know, that was redevelopment money, not actually tax money.

  4. You do a great disservice to this post by omitting Redevelopment zones from your equations.  Redevelopment encompasses thousands of prime retail and industrial acres from Edenvale to Alum Rock, North San Jose to The Alameda and Winchester Blvd. – nearly a third of the entire City.

    Also not taken under consideration is that the City of San Jose does not pay property taxes on the land that it owns.  Like city parks and libraries, no property taxes are collected on the Arena, old and new City Halls, or whatever parcels are being land-banked for the Stadium.  (All land that had long contributed to the tax-base before it was publicly acquired.)

    • Fred,

      RDA zones for the collection of tax increment is only the Downtown, North San Jose and Edenvale.  Alum Rock, Winchester, The Alameda, Japantown, etc….are not tax increment areas however they have benefited from RDA funds being spent there.
      Prior to Jerry Brown the plan was to expand tax increment collection to those other areas however that plan is dead. Personally I am was not and am not a fan of expanding RDA and borrowing more money.

  5. Frequently City manager, staff and politicians using city budget numbers

    1) sometimes unintentionally
    2) somestimes intentionally

    because THEY DO NOT GIVE CONTEXT with ACTUAL NUMBERS and percentages and OMIT the Total City budget especially Operating and Redevelopment budgets that can be used with some constraints ( RDA $ in RDA areas only free up GF for rest of city ) to pay for general funds expenses

    Many people believe you try to get accurate budget, deficit and other information in your blogs but sometime what you present while clear to you,  is confusing to many others causing some to accuse you of misleading them

    Please clarify today’s blog by telling us

    Total San Jose city budget – General fund, operating and capital funds = $3- 3 1/2 billion

    General Fund = $700-800 million of which 55% + ( majority ) from businesses – property taxes, sales taxes, fees,  user charges, licenses etc and San Jose has less businesses per capita than other Silicon Valley cities WHICH IS MAYOR and COUNCIL IGNORES BUSINESS REVENUE SHORTFALL ISSUE caused by bad Council policies, 2-3 times longer for city approvals, high taxes and fees

    If San Jose had same per capita business revenue of the neighboring SCC cities Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mt View, Palo Alto, or Milpitas San Jose we would have EXCESS city general fund revenues, more public safety / city employees and great services

    How much is $ residential property taxes and $ fire department costs as percentage of General fund ?

    How much is $ residential property taxes and $ fire department costs as percentage of Total budget ?

    Last RDA tax increment $ was $202 million which means if RDA was closed $25 million city property taxes would after paying off RDA debts would go to city general fund reducing GF deficit

    How much of average annual cost per full time firefighter of $185,000 is pension cost – current pension / past pension cost due to paying off

    1) pension fund losses

    2) multiple year pension obligations from when Council raised pensions to 90% and spread cost over 30 years

    3) city taking pension investment earnings during boom years to reduce city pension obligations giving Council 10’s million per year taxes to spend on downtown and other projects and economic development which now are recognized as not adequate pension contributions that have to now be made up by city and employees

    Any additional clarification of complex budget issues would be appreciated

    Yes manu of us agree that more housing and money losing city propert ( golf courses, Hayes, Mercian Hertige , money losing tax investments makes city services worst because we do not have adequate taxes for city services now

    Thanks for your answers clarifying today’s blog for many people so that your critics can not say you are like many politicians meet Mark Twain’s comment about figures without understandable context:

    ” Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force:

    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

  6. Pierluigi

    Why is San Jose one of few cities with 4 very highly paid fire fighters per truck and we often see 4-8 fire fighters at slip and fall or other minor medial emergency and the AMR county contractor arrives and to treat person and transport to medical facility  

    EMS calls are 85% of FD calls

    Why so many people 4 x $185000 = $740,000 or 8 = $1,480,000 per incident plus $ million or 2 fire trucks What a waste of taxes !!!!!!

    AMR or contract medical emergency crew can do same job with 3 qualified EMS’s for $ 200,000 without city’s out of control fire fighter’s retirement, benefits and payroll which city can not afford

    What happened to Fire department 2 person medical emergency trucks instead of million dollar 4 person crew on slow heavy million dollar fire truck ?

    State CALFIRE is going to 3 person crew per Gov Brown why not San Jose and we can then have more open stations and better response times

    Looks like taxpayers are being taken advantage of by overstaffed and overpaid firefighters

    • you have no idea what youre talking about…what a waste of taxes??? what would you prefer it be spent on? The mayors personal security, city councils car allowance, the Hayes mansion, pete constants weight loss regimene ($70,000!!!)…huh? I couldnt think of a better thing to spend my taxes on than public safety.
      And when its your husband or your wife having a heart attack or your house on fire with your kids trapped inside…i bet your view will change drastically.

    • Yes your are correct SJ has a higher staffing ratio and in a perfect world with unlimited revenue maybe SJ would have even more people on a fire engine. However we do not have this luxury.

      Changing the staffing ratio to the same as all other Santa Clara county cities is better than closing fire stations.

      • Wrong…. !!

        San Jose Fire ranks number 30 in the largest 30 cities in the nation as it relates to staffing.  Pier knows this and has been shown the studies but it would appear that he would rather not tell the whole truth to get his point across and put the public’s safety at risk…..

        There are numerous studies that support the facts related to staffing and why it’s required in a city our size.  If you want staffing to match that of santa clara city or others, then simply build more fire stations…. (like 66 more) then your ratio of firefighters per square mile will match that of other cities.

        Additionally, there are OSHA laws in place that require a certain amount of firefighters for entry into a home (2 in/ 2 out) as well NFPA 1710 Standards for staffing in general.  Lastly, a recent independent study put on by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology ) shows that a reduction from 4 to 3 on a fire engine will have disastrous results should your life be in danger in a fire.

        Pier, you basic core values should be protecting the people by having the best public safety possible.  You are an advocate for gutting us so thin that we will be forced to fight fire from the sidewalk and watch people suffer…. I hope that is worth the cost savings that you are proposing.

        Here is the study :

        NFPA 1710 for staffing:

        City of Columbus Economic Advisory Committee Report and Recommendations AdvisoryCommittee Final Report.pdf.pdf

      • Pier, this is the problem when your hate for an organization (i.e. FD) is so strong that you start skewing numbers to fit your argument. The fact is that the staffing ratio of Firefighters per 1,000 citizens was about .7 per 1,000 before the layoffs. The national average is about 1.3 per 1,000. Second, when you compare say Santa Clara City you are comparing apples to oranges. The City of Santa Clara made a choice to have more stations per square mile with a staffing of 3 on each Engine and the City of San Jose chose to have 4 on an Engine but less stations per square mile. This provides the number of total Firefighters on duty that you need to handle both the daily average responses and the peak or multiple alarm situations. When you fail to understand this dynamic you are not looking at the whole picture. Ernest Beginner below makes the same point, that you would have to have about 60 plus stations to be comparable to Santa Clara City. I am guessing that would be more costly not less. Also from what I recall, San Jose has one of the lowest cost per citizen for FD protection of all local departments.
        What I still can not understand is your overt bashing of the FD. You are supposed to be a leader and as such I would expect more professionalism and respect than you show on a daily basis. Your behavior is what is driving a wedge in any ability for members to support the changes you so want.
        I would appreciate a response to this comment.

    • Dear End High FD Costs,
      Your response is exactly why the average citizen should not be trying to make public safety decisions. I do not make this in a disrespectful way but how is what you are doing different from a stockholder telling the CEO of a company how to run the company they have stock in. You can not fully understand the system and why things are the way they are unless you have a full understanding of all the needs of the system and laws that affect them. The reason the FD goes to EMS is because we can get there quicker. If the citizens really do not want that then fine. But you really need to understand what you are doing to your safety in an emergency. When you have a breathing problem, say CHF and are literally drowning in your own fluid, waiting another 5-8 min for an ambulance probably would not make your situation better.
      Currently AMR has a response expectation of 11:59 for code 3 calls. To reduce that number to what the FD has you would have to added a lot more ambulances to the County. That would increase the cost to AMR and thus either drive their rates higher or put them out of business since they are a for profit company.
      Comparing a city FD covering 1,000,000 people to CDF that mostly covers rural areas or small rural cities is comparing apples to oranges and not a valid comparison.
      Your statement about being overpaid: I guess that depends on how you compare wages for all people in a given industry. The wages SJFD pays are competitive with other agencies in the Bay Area. What has driven costs so high for “Total Compensation” is rising health costs and the financial industry collapse that affected pensions both of which were not the city employees fault or for that matter the cities fault. It is simply something that must be worked through and adjusted in a well thought out way. The pension system has been around since the city was formed and has worked fine for generations so to try and blame all the ills of the city on the employee is not only unfair it is inaccurate but that is exactly what Mr. Oliverio wants.

  7. You mention getting rid off the cities properties that lose money like the Hayes mansion and the golf courses!  Don’t forget the Mexican heritage plaza. That place loses more money and the council continues to pour more money into it!  You and chuck continue to take from police and fire with the notion of, “it’s business not personal”. Why can’t you shut down and sell the Mexican heritage plaza and tell The Raza that it’s “business not personal”. You and the council are to afraid to be called racist by the Hispanic community that you will continue to throw away money on this money pit!  If your going to make cuts, go completely across the board and not pick and choose.

  8. Pier you continue your anti police and fire campaign in the midst of a crime wave where gang violence and the homicide rate is through the roof.  How many librarians does it take to keep our city safe?  Answer: it does not matter tone down the rhetoric.  In the military you don’t pick on those on the front lines and bring down morale….leadership 101!

  9. For all the honesty contained in the posts he passes off as examples of transparency, Mr. Oliverio would have, had he joined up with Tony Soprano’s crime family instead of Chuck Reed’s, wound up bobbing in the tides along with Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bompensiero. The arrogance contained in his public utterances is unmistakable, the mark of a politician who truly thinks he serves only fools.

    Mr. Oliverio’s enthusiasm for emphasizing the total compensation package of public safety employees is easy to understand; it’s high enough to raise the eyebrows of even most ardent supporters of our cops and firefighters, not to mention being the equivalent of gasoline on the fire smoldering amongst citizens hit hardest by the current government-created recession. But the question that remains is, emotions aside, what is the real story behind those figures?

    How long has it been that the annual employee cost for a cop or firefighter was so high? The answer is, not very long. Factored into whatever dollar amounts are cited are three key components:

    1 – The cost incurred due to the city’s negligent strategy of risk management. Keeping your fingers crossed and your contingency fund empty are not the hallmarks of sound fiscal management. Had the city prepared for the unlikely but obviously not impossible disaster that occurred, the cost per employee would be significantly lower.

    2 – Recent reductions in manpower caused by layoffs and retirements. With virtually everyone even minimally eligible frightened into retirement by the threats and insults coming out of city hall, a great number of cops and firefighters stopped making bi-weekly contributions to the retirement fund and began making monthly withdrawals. I wouldn’t be surprised if this factor alone added twenty million or more into the annual cost basis.

    3 – Souring health insurance costs.

    Every dollar today paid a working or retired cop or firefighter was taken into account during the last ten years by experts working on both sides of the bargaining table. The money was expected to be there according to the best information possible, just as it had been there for more than fifty years. The pension pot was full. That is why the city said yes to the contracts. That is why the employees, who own that pension pot, thought they could take more. True, it would have been prudent had the contract sweetening been less generous (given the private sector problems), but the bottom line is that had the city prepared for that rare deep recession the way home owners prepare for that rare house fire (by buying insurance), the crisis would’ve been minor, the exodus of employee’s non-existent, and Mr. Oliverio would never have felt the need to feed us bullshit statistics, scapegoat our employees, or break the law and steal election signs.

  10. Cash-strapped San Jose redevelopment agency hires new chief operating officer

    San Jose’s struggling redevelopment agency, financially strapped and fighting for its very existence, has hired a new chief operating officer for $150,000.

    Jim Forsberg, 69, who worked at the agency from 1989 to 2000 as an assistant executive director, will start his new job Thursday helping agency chief Harry Mavrogenes through what Mavrogenes calls “its current financial challenges.”

    Forsberg replaces John Weis, the agency’s former assistant executive director, who left last June. The agency then launched a search for the position, though it changed the title to chief operating officer and lowered the base salary range to $150,000-$180,000.


    However, Forsberg’s salary and benefits, totaling $170,000, will be paid by the agency itself “at significantly lower cost,’’ said Mavrogenes, since the city offers pricier retirement benefits.

    The agency chief also confirmed Friday night that he is talking with Weis about returning on a part-time basis on contract to help the agency negotiate the ballpark contract with A’s owner Lew Wolff, if needed. Mavrogenes said he MAY seek authorization from the City Council to do that.

    1) Close Redevelopment agency

    2) Stop Pigs at Trough – by have COUNCIL required that any double dipping former San Jose city or redevelopment employees receiving retirement from San Jose be paid NOT MORE than 125% of their final pay in total of retirement ( 75-90% ) retirement plus consulting fees = 125% fianl pay

  11. Hey Pier…instead of pointing fingers at the firefighters, why dont you start pointing the finger at your fellow comrade Pete Constant? The city spend $70,000 on his weight loss plan (and it looks like he has gained quite a bit of the weight back). He is collecting disability from the City, while taking part in wrestling matches on youtube!! really pier?? point your finger somewhere else. Cause for every one finger you point…there are ten pointing back (and im willing to bet its a different finger pointing at you!)

    • If we’re talking about saving dollars and cents here, then it’s much easier to look for savings in a multimillion dollar bureaucratic organization than it is to look at one bureaucrat within that organization.

      Besides, there’s 660 firefighters (at an average cost to the city of $185K each) and only one Pete Constant.

      As irritating as the hose-sniffers may find Mr. Constant’s presence on the planet, he does not by himself consume $122M of city budget on a yearly basis.

  12. Ernest Beginner –

    You are avoiding the fire department cost and staffing issues by only talking about 15% fire responses since 85% of fire department calls are medical emergencies not fires that requiring 4 firefighters on fire truck

    Part of reason that community discussions have gotten so nasty is that when valid staffing, cost and alternatives to high cost questions are asked people like you rant on, make accusations, and effectively misdir4ct people by not answering valid staffing and cost questions

    Awaiting your non ranting answers about staffing , alternative solutions and staffing for 85% EMS calls

    All the fire departments in Santa Clara County except San Jose and Gilroy handle fires with 3 fire fighters per truck

    Reducing fire truck staffing from 4 to 3 – 85% of the time will have no impact since these calls are medical emergency calls

    Most of time 2 or more fire trucks are on site for fires before anyone goes into the building

    You did not address using 2 person smaller vehicles for 85% medical emergencies and when fire call occur the fire truck with 2 people can meet the small EMS truck at the fire

    Having 3 people per truck can staff closed fire stations with same number of fire fighters

    San Jose has a 5 or more years budget crisis ahead so contracting out EMS calls to less expensive private EMS company will help San Jose rather that spending 2-4 times cost for 4 fire fighters on fire truck 85% of time wasting taxes and requiring more FD layoffs

    • The fact is that the staffing ratio of Firefighters per 1,000 citizens was about .7 per 1,000 before the layoffs. The national average is about 1.3 per 1,000. Second, when you compare say Santa Clara City you are comparing apples to oranges. The City of Santa Clara made a choice to have more stations per square mile with a staffing of 3 on each Engine and the City of San Jose chose to have 4 on an Engine but less stations per square mile. This provides the number of total Firefighters on duty that you need to handle both the daily average responses and the peak or multiple alarm situations. When you fail to understand this dynamic you are not looking at the whole picture. You would have to have about 60 plus stations to be comparable to Santa Clara City. I am guessing that would be more costly not less. Also from what I recall, San Jose has one of the lowest cost per citizen for FD protection of all local departments.

  13. Sounds like the City of San Jose, as currently run, can not afford to offer fire protection services.

    One option might be to spin off the fire department and get together with the county or a few neighboring cities and create a fire protection district. 

    You could make the new agency a CalPERS shop with 5 year vesting, but probably lower starting wages and longer time in service to top the steps. 

    Probably not gonna happen, but fun to talk about.  Imagine a South Bay regional fire protection district with a great academy, a lot of specialized talent and opportunities for folks to rotate through several cities and rural areas to get a feel for the area.  If you really want to hold on to that medical first responder thing, run with it and have rolling paramedic crews be first responders and also do the transport(for the $$).

  14. Blair

    Your idea to combine all county Fire Departments into 1 county wide Fire District makes a lot of sense for both fire calls and medical calls to get better service response with current staffing, contract providers and taxes

    It would eliminate much of very expensive local city fire department overhead and admin costs and with contracting for county wide private medical provider handle majority of calls for service while fire calls

    County already uses AMR to respond to medical calls so adding more private medical personal at less 40% cost firefighters would improve medcial response and focus lesser number of highly paid firefighters on fires  

    County could also contract with state CalFire for rural area coverage at significant cost savings since CalFire pay and benefits are lower since rural wildland fires require less experience and training than city firefighters

  15. Pier,
    Why is it that you hate firefighters so much ??  Did you not get a sticker as a child ??  Is it possible that the great bartender, never had to work a real job in his life councilman, pier is jealous of a lowly firefighter ??

    This is obviously a crusade against the men and women of the SJFD and it has to make me wonder, why the constant attacks on public safety ??  I’m sure you’ll simply spin it as this is your fiscal responsibility to ensure that the city can afford to pay for services but that excuse is starting to wear thin…..

    I would like to thank you, pete, and the mayor, for the message that you deliver to the residents of this city regarding public safety.  Ever since you 3 began your crusade, we the end user get to endure the results…. Hatred from the public.

    I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart that I get “flipped off” at least once a day while at work as a firefighter.  I have been yelled at, pushed, questioned, accused, and embarrassed all while trying to perform my duties as a firefighter and all due to the public thinking that “I” am the sole reason for the city’s decline in financial security as a direct result of YOUR message.  Rest assured Pier, the people have heard you and it is impeding our work as public safety.

    Stand proud pier, you have succeeded… The people of this city hate us and blame us for all of the money issues that we face.  If that was your intended goal then congratulations….. if that was an unfortunate byproduct of your constant slandering then shame on you for accidentally instilling hatred toward those who come to help in your time of need…..

    Either way, some day sir…. you will be judged.

  16. Darryl-

    I’m glad you got yours.  How dare you comment now?  It must be easy driving around in your Maserati bought with your sick leave buyout to comment on the situation that you left-a department in shambles.  Thanks for nothing.

    • Jeff,

      It is not about getting yours or anything of the sort; it’s about how the City can manage the emergency response and prevention resources with the shrinking revenues.  My retirement decision was based on 34 years in the Fire Service and life decisions; both births and deaths that have occurred in my family.  I find it amazing people are so concerned about how I manage my finances with funds that are available for all Fire Department retirees.  If we want to see who bought condos in Hawaii, Mercedes, Corvettes and other high end items with their retirement payouts I guess it would make for interesting conversation but not get us anywhere.  The conversation would get even more interesting if we look at the additional disability offset money in the current system which is above and beyond the retirement amount and see how that is spent.  This offset money is not a common benefit in the PERS system and is one area that could create immediate savings to the Fire retirement system.

      I will continue to comment to correct inaccuracies that are posted by various anonymous writers; I appreciate you using your name.  As I have asked from them without any replies, if you have better ideas for $10 million in reductions in the Fire Department please bring them forward.  Dynamic deployment was the best option available to meet the budget reductions last year other than concessions which were not accepted.  This year’s deficit looks as bad as last year but there is much less capacity in the resources than before so the decisions will be much more difficult with more severe impacts, not just for the Fire Department but all City Departments.  I’m sure your input will be valued.  I am proud of my entire 33 years of service to the San Jose Fire Department and want only the best for the men and women who work for this great organization.  So I will continue to have an interest in the success of the San Jose Fire Department and participate as a concerned citizen. As I have stated, I look forward to when solutions can be found to get the Department back to the 2008 staffing levels which were the highest in Department history.

      There is a lot of miss information out there and as I have offered to others, I am available to meet and discuss the issues and provide the facts as I know them and listen to you.  I know we may not change each other’s minds, but open honest conversation can help lead to better understanding.