Back in grade school, high school, and college, I surfed a lot. I also swam a lot and was a junior lifeguard, but not for very long.
Because there is no way my father would have let me pursue that kind of stuff as a career. You see, he was a Civil Engineer, with his Master’s Degree. Shoot, my mom even told me once that he would have gotten his Doctorate had I not been born. But I digress…
So I had to study, and study, and then study some more. In the summer, when I wasn’t surfing or swimming, I’d be studying. And now today, I run the books for mom-and-pops as well as for $100 million dollar companies.
But he primarily kept my nose in the books because back then, being a lifeguard could never be a career, could never pay well, and could never lead to good things. How could it, right?
Well…fast forward to 2011 and the City of Newport Beach.
City Manager Dave Kiff, with his budget-slashing Conan the Barbarian Axe, is proposing to reduce the city’s corps of full time Lifeguards from 13 to nine. And some people in the City are actually upset at this…even my good friend Barbara Venezia wrote about this from the Lifeguard’s point of view in the OC Register.
So let me inject my spin into this Safety vs. Pension Lifeguard argument.
But let me start somewhere else.
Do you know that the top-paid Lifeguard, with benefits, received more than $210,000?
The next highest paid Lifeguard, with benefits, $203,481.76?
In fact, out of the 14 full-time Lifeguards on payroll in 2010, the poorest one received with benefits…wait for it…$98,160.65.
The average salary, with benefits, for those 14 Lifeguards, was $154,857.95. And that includes $400 each a year for sun screen…
Is that a lot?
Ok, so what do they do for that money?
Today just happens to be a very warm day. So are those guys out saving lives? Sure they are, but there is also a large pool of Lifeguards on Call to draw from who make $16 to $22 an hour with no benefits. THEY man the towers and THEY do the lionshare of the rescues.
But the full time guys, well, in the offseason, typically two are in trucks – maybe three – one at CdM, two others are in trucks roaming between the Wedge and the Santa Ana River. The rest are either doing admin/office work, not driving around…. not on a Tower. They are painting towers, ordering uniforms, answering phones (“How’s the surf today?”), overseeing dispatch, training people on CPR or prepping for Jr. Guards (getting the trailer ready).
So we need those Full Time Lifeguards earning at total, including benefits, of $2,168,011.39 to do this? We need an average of $154,857.95 each to paint a lifeguard tower, answer phones, train people in CPR and training Junior Lifeguards?
Obviously not, as Kiff, the Newport Beach Fire Department Chief, and the Newport Beach Chief Safety Officer had decided as they propose cutting the 13 down to nine.
And as far as I am concerned, this is the furthest thing away from a Safety vs. Pension issue. It’s just cutting some serious, and long overdue, fat from the City.
Ooohhhh…forgot to mention their juicy pensions didn’t I?
OK, consider that two recently retired Lifeguards now receive in excess of $100K a year in pensions plus medical. One guard recently retired at age 51 to receive $108,000 a year, plus medical.
So don’t feel soo bad for those poor lifeguards.
Also think about this, if you are drowning in Newport Beach waters, would you want a 47-year-old full-time lifeguard who normally jockeys a desk, or answers the phone, or does admin/office work to come get you, or would you want a very fit 23-year-old Lifeguard-On-Call/UCI water polo player to drag your butt out of the water?
Think David Hasselhoff vs. Pamela Anderson.
So by the time I get to retire at the age of, let’s say, 70…that same 70 year old retired Newport Beach Lifeguard would have already been “earning” more than $108,000.00 a year from his pension for 20 years.
And my father didn’t want me to be a lifeguard.