Rescue Me

Miami firefighters are making a killing on the backs of taxpayers

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Knee deep in a recession and facing massive budget cuts, the city of Miami can hardly afford to burn money, but that's just what they're doing.

City employees, many of whom are firefighters, are taking Miami to the bank, with nearly 100 municipal employees making over $200,000 last year.

In 2008, 97 employees reached that threshold, at a total cost of $22.76 million, according to a report in the Biscayne Times. And a whopping 84 percent of those were fire department supervisors.

With an 8.2 percent unemployment rate and a median income of $26,000 per year in Miami, the numbers are staggering, but most city officials, perhaps scared of the powerful firefighters union, aren't touching the issue with a 20-foot firepole.

The rarely tight-lipped Mayor Manny Diaz didn't offer many words. "He does not have any comment," Diaz's spokeswoman told the Times.

According to fire union officials, long hours of overtime combined with retroactive pay adjustments helped make the business of fighting fires quite lucrative in Miami.

Capt. Jon Hart of the Department of Fire-Rescue was the top bread-winner with $308,317.88 in 2008.

“The only way someone could have gotten that amount is an enormous amount of overtime,” Robert Suarez, Miami Association of Fire Fighters union president, said. “That is not anyone’s regular salary.”

Number two on the list was Fernando Acosta, a Miami police officer with the title of "Sergeant-At-Arms" for the Miami Commission. Acosta made a cool $295,075.22 in 2008.

“I wish I made that much money,” Acosta said, declining to comment further.

At least one local pol thinks the paystubs don't make much sense.

“I think that there is a total divorce between reality and city business,” Commissioner Tomas Regalado told the Times. “The administration has not figured out that we are in an economic crisis.”

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