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BSO firefighters in wage battle earn over $100k

A reader paying attention to the dispute between Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti and the firefighters about pay raises asked us for some information about what firefighters earn. We now have it.

A spreadsheet provided by BSO for firefighter employees -- that includes captains, battalion chiefs and lieutenants as well as firefighters -- shows the average earner in 2009 took in $98,719.38 including salary, supplemental pay and overtime. (The spreadsheet doesn't indicate if employees worked a full year but it includes their hire date so we omitted some employees who started on the job in November because that would have skewed the average.)

More than 170 on the list took in at least $100,000 with the top earner, Capt. Walter Knapp, earning $188,740.82.

Clearly part of the overtime expenses -- budgeted for $3 million last year but in reality $6 million -- are a result of several dozen vacancies.

"In our world you've got to have bodies, they are either going to hire people or pay overtime -- you don't have other choices,'' said Walter Dix, president of the union.

The firefighters' union and Lamberti reached impasse over pay raises. A special magistrate made a recommendation in the union's favor last week suggesting a three percent raise next year. Lamberti has argued that in the midst of budget cuts, this isn't the right time for raises.

The county has told Lamberti to cut $60 million, or 14 percent, out of the portion of the budget that comes from the general fund. Instead the sheriff submitted a $421.3 million budget which represents a 1 percent cut, or about $4.5 million. About 120 workers at BSO, mostly in the jails, have received pink slip while about 245 in the jail are facing demotions.