Frates on Firefighters' Pensions

Dr. Frates was recently quoted in the Ventura County Star on the subject of what level of pension benefits is needed to recruit and retain firefighters. Frates makes the contention that lavish pension benefits are not needed to recruit qualified firefighters:

When Oxnard adopted “3 at 50” in 2005 for its firefighters, it was virtually inevitable that Ventura union leaders would demand the same. The system is built so local agencies end up competing against each other, said Steven Frates, a senior fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont.

For Frates, the issue is whether cities and counties can hold the line and still lure qualified applicants. At police departments up and down the state, “3 at 50” is necessary to recruit people for what most consider a stressful, dangerous job with a high burnout rate, he said.

“That’s not the case for firefighters,” Frates said, recalling how a recent opening in the Newport Beach Fire Department drew a crowd of 600 applicants, including some who camped overnight. “What the market is telling us is that you don’t have to offer 3 at 55 to get qualified applicants.”

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