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Posted on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 5:56 a.m.

Ann Arbor CFO: New contract with firefighters union will cost city extra $230K next year

By Ryan J. Stanton

Mayor John Hieftje said working cooperatively with Ann Arbor's firefighters union is going to afford the city the best opportunity to meet the challenges still ahead.

That includes low staffing levels in the fire department, which has city officials considering a restructuring plan that would eliminate two fire stations.

"There's certainly a lot of discussion about the fire department in the community and that's a healthy thing," Hieftje said. "I'm hoping to be able to move forward together in addressing the issues certainly that we see with fire service in our city."

The mayor's remarks came Monday night as the Ann Arbor City Council voted 8-0 on a new collective bargaining agreement with the firefighters union.


Mayor John Hieftje listens to a speaker at Monday's council meeting.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The city and the union — formally known as Local 693 of the International Association of Fire Fighters — have been operating without a contract for nearly two years. The new contract goes back retroactively to July 1, 2010, and runs through June 30, 2014.

"My thanks go out to the members of the firefighters union for sticking with it and seeing the process through," Hieftje said, calling it "the first time in quite a while" that the city has all of its labor contracts signed.

The negotiated contract is in alignment with other labor agreements recently settled and includes elimination of a retirement plan match, reduction in food allowances, a change in schedule for platoon employees to increase their weekly hours, and changes in health care plans that mirror the city's nonunion plans and meet state-mandated hard cap levels.

Some of the biggest savings for the city will come in future years with changes in pensions and retiree health care for new hires in the fire department.

The agreement also provides an entirely new wage scale for new hires, while current firefighters will see a 1.5 percent raise July 1 and another 1.5 percent raise the following year, bringing wages back to June 2008 levels before they made previous concessions.

Tom Crawford, the city's chief financial officer, shared a detailed overview of the financial implications of the contract with, showing the switch to a new health care plan for firefighters is expected to save about $150,000 while the elimination of the city's matching contribution toward a retirement plan will save another $40,000.

Meanwhile, a 40 percent reduction in food allowances for firefighters is expected to save another $38,000.


Tom Crawford

Partially offsetting those savings is a $105,000 increase in wages in each of the next two years. Crawford pointed out the wage increases reflect the fact that the firefighters union was the first and only bargaining unit to take a 3 percent wage reduction two years ago while the other bargaining units in the city chose to forgo wage adjustments and pay more toward benefits.

Now that the fire department is adopting the same benefit plan as other city employees, the contract calls for a restoration of that 3 percent over the next two years.

Crawford said those changes would have saved the city about $120,000 in the fiscal year starting July 1, and it would have been "almost break-even" the following year.

But the city and union also agreed to a change in work schedule from the existing 50.4-hour work week to a 54-hour work week.

"This schedule change is significant from an operating perspective and will help the fire chief in optimizing deployment of resources," Crawford said.

He estimated the scheduling change will cost the city $350,000 per year, and consequently the net impact of the contract — in relation to what the city had initially planned — is an increase in costs of $230,000 in fiscal year 2012-13 and $335,000 in fiscal year 2013-14.

Even with those increases in costs, council members applauded the changes Monday night and Hieftje said he thinks the city will be able to avoid further reductions in staffing levels in the fire department in the city's budget process over the next few months.

"I very much appreciate this coming forward in this way," said Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, thanking the city's staff and the firefighters. "It's a pleasure to see this come forward outside the arbitration process. I'm delighted about the operational changes this affords us and look forward to its implementation."

Crawford said the budget implications of the new contract will be incorporated into the city administrator's recommended budget being released in April.

In other action Monday night, the council ratified a new labor agreement with the Command Officers Association of Michigan bargaining unit representing police supervisors. Crawford estimated the savings from that contract will be about $70,000 next year.

The city and COAM have been operating without a contract since the last agreement expired June 30, 2009.

The new contract runs through June 30, 2013, and includes no wage adjustments, an updated health care plan in line with other bargaining units and elimination of a retirement plan match.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Why is it that people assume fire fighters are too highly paid? My father was a fire fighter and the risks are far greater than most realize. Ann Arbor should pay fire and police a wage that takes into consideration the risks of their jobs. If you want to cut spending, cut back on discretionary expenses like the public art fund. Both have places in the community, unfortunately, Ann Arbor priorities are just in the wrong place.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.



Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

So now the haters will blame the union. I already see it coming. These contracts are "mutually agreed upon" people.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Wow ... In my eyes, both firefighters and police risk their lives every single day and deserve a good salary with benefits.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

Silly Sally, There is a huge difference between what HVA paramedics do and what the AAFD personnel do. The AAFD personnel have specialized training for HAZ MAT, Driving the Apparatus, RUNNING INTO A FIRE to rescue someone trapped in a fire, and many more things to list. I am in no way trying to degrade what HVA does do but there is a huge difference between what the 2 entities do and why the pay is so different.

Silly Sally

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 10:48 a.m.

Are they still paying them all over $100,000 a year including benefits? That is just too much, especially for a job that people are lining up to be trained to do, whenever there are opening, which is rarely. Huron Valley Ambulance paramedics do not make nearly as much. They have a lot of medical training. I hope AnnArbor dot com would better explain their high pay structure and benefits.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Sally, I am sure the door is open for you to show up and work with the fine men and women of AAFD...are you ready to put your life on the line in a burning building, work 54 hrs a week, miss your familys holidays (fire departments do not close down for holidays) Just food for thought!


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Oops, ..."They will be called on to save lives, maybe your ungrateful life, possible risking their lives" Sorry!


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

How much should a trained firefighter make in your world? They will be working 54 hour weeks, they will be called upon to risk their lives, maybe your ungrateful life. They are called on to work on accidents that have mangled bodies, blood guts and gore. They save lives. What would you want to make in this situation? Sign up, offer your services for 1/2 the pay.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

It would really help if you got at least some facts straight Sally. If the job responsibilities were the same, perhaps you could compare the salaries. However, they aren't so you have the old "apples and oranges" comparison going.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

It's disingenuous to suggest that a firefighter's "pay" includes benefits. Even if your estimation is correct, I don't think it's too much for a salary and benefits package for people who work 54 hours a week in a dangerous job.

Silly Sally

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

I meant the high pay of AAFD, not the HVA

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 10:36 a.m.

@Ryan, can you please inform us what the total year 1 budget cost is of a firefighter in Ann Arbor under the new contract? I would like to know what the total extra cost would be to have 88 firefighters in fiscal year 2013 versus the 77 currently budgeted.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

@Ryan Stanton: great info, thanks! So the 11 additional firefighters we need to staff all five fire stations and meet the national NFPA standard for 4 firefighters arriving in 4 minute response times to 90% of all fires would cost $880,000 a year. So, we could fund that and still put over $500,000 in the rainy day fund.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

According to the city's finance department, the city now will be able to hire in a new firefighter for $79,599, inclusive of salary and benefits.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 10:29 a.m.

"There's certainly a lot of discussion about the fire department in the community and that's a healthy thing," Hieftje said. "I'm hoping to be able to move forward together in addressing the issues certainly that we see with fire service in our city." I'm not sure if the Mayor "sees" the problems he has created or not? Is he still comfortable with his public safety "experiment" or not? City Council and the Mayor have a big decision to make for Ann Arbor's fire safety with the 2013 fiscal year budget: do they want: A. $1.4 million added to the rainy day fund with 76 firefighters operating from three fire stations who can get to 72 percent of all fires and heart attack victims with four firefighters in four minutes, OR B. $200,000 added to the rainy day fund with 88 firefighters operating from five fire stations able to get to 90 percent of all fires and hear attack victims with four firefighters in four minutes. The chief says that his "magic number" for staffing requires B, but the Mayor wants to give us A. I want them to vote for "Plan B"!! Do you??


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Amazes me that everyone complains about the Fire Department, yet they do no complain about the taxes they pay each year!! Citizens of Ann Arbor....YOUR taxes pay for cores services, police, fire, water, sanitation, streets etc....your fire service if free, whereas HVA if they respond, send your insurance company a bill for services rendered.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

@countrycat: HVA which provides all ambulance services in Ann Arbor aims to respond to emergency medical calls such as heart attacks in 10 minutes. HVA usually arrives after the AA Fire Department because the fire department is striving (but currently failing over 60% of the time) to arrive in 4 minutes. Our fire fighters are all highly trained on emergency first aid and can save lives when a quicker response saves lives. Firefighters often are driving the ambulance to the hospital while EMTs are trying to stabilize a patient in the back. HVA personnel often need lifting assistance in getting a patient to a gurney. The myth that HVA can do it all is just a myth.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 11:29 a.m.

please run for mayor. we need a mayor with common sense.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.

Why does the FIRE department have to go out on a heart attack call, can't 911 operators just dispatch an ambulance????

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 10:31 a.m.

"hear attack" should be "heart attack". Sigh. Sorry.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 10:21 a.m.

So, council members applaud an increase in costs. Not good negotiations, if you ask me. Where are we going to get the money from - the wages paid to the mayor, city administrator and possibly other salary positions?


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

Ah HAH! snapshot!!! Government EE's are citizens that are represented by a union. Elected officials are servants of the people. They MUST listen to citizens or face losing their positions don't they?


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

I'm with you Goober. Why wouldn't the firefighter union cooperate with a pay increase? Government employees seem to be in control instead of our elected officials.


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

How about the 975 K then found left over from last years budgets savings!


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Let's see- the greenbelt slush fund, the public art commission.....

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 10:13 a.m.

"Mayor John Hieftje said working cooperatively with Ann Arbor's firefighters union is going to afford the city the best opportunity to meet the challenges still ahead." So does this mean the Mayor is resigning?


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Are you running against him in the next election? Did you run against him in the last election? Do you have something against election results?


Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

one can only hope.