Fire district hits 3 cities with $2.5M bill for back pay

EDMONDS — The cities of Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Brier have been hit with unexpected bills totaling $2.5 million from Fire District 1 to pay for retroactive pay raises for its employees for the past two years.

Edmonds got the biggest bill, $1.67 million. Although the city was expecting to eventually get a bill for the back pay, “we were definitely taken aback at the size of the bill,” said Mayor Dave Earling.

Mountlake Terrace was billed $661,318. Arlene Fisher, the city manager, said that Fire District 1 officials understand “it’s a significant amount of money for any city, regardless of how big or small your budget is.”

Brier has been billed $256,240. Mayor Bob Colinas said that his city expected, and budgeted for, an increase but “we weren’t anticipating that much of an increase.”

All three cities contract with the fire district to provide fire and paramedic services.

“I think in the weeks to come, we’re going to be reviewing some details from Fire District 1 related to this invoice,” he said.

All three cities contract with the fire district to provide fire and paramedic services.

Edmonds Mayor Earling said his city, too, is asking for a breakout of the costs.

“We just want to get all the information we can,” he said. “We’re trying to work with them.”

Earling said the bill would have an impact on the 2015 Edmonds budget, but it’s too early to know what changes might be needed.

The wage issue for the fire district’s 192 employees, including firefighters, paramedics, captains and battalion chiefs, goes back to 2012, said Ed Widdis, chief of Fire District 1.

That year a contract was expiring. Union employees were to get a 3.7 percent pay increase. But with layoffs looming, employees decided to decline the pay raise after one month to avoid layoffs, Widdis said.

The union contract for 2013-14 was settled about two months ago and included retroactive raises of 4.51 percent for 2013 and 1.2 percent for 2014, he said.

The fire district told Edmonds in 2009 that it should expect salary increases of about 3 percent a year, Widdis said. For Edmonds, “we’re within $122,000 of projections over the course of five years,” he said.

Widdis said district staff members are to meet Wednesday with representatives of the three cities to explain the numbers and would work with the cities on a payment plan.

“There’s always room for negotiations,” he said. But any such action would have to be approved by both the fire district’s five board members and the city councils of the three cities, Widdis said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486;

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