To put their pay in perspective, the chief of the New York City fire department, one of the largest and busiest in the world, earns $192,000 a year.
The pay disparity extends to rank-and-file firefighters in unincorporated Greenburgh. They earned on average $125,712 in 2008, 32% more than firefighters in some larger cities in Westchester County, the report says.
The 66-page report stems from a new state law drafted by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who was recently elected governor, and introduced by multiple lawmakers. The law encourages citizens to look for ways to consolidate the state's 10,500 government entities.
Since the law was enacted this past spring, voters have approved only one of nine consolidation proposals, according to the Secretary of State's office. Also, two fire districts on Long Island consolidated using procedures from the new law.
The efforts comes as cities and towns across the U.S. have been seeking ways to lower tax burdens amid plunging real-estate values, high unemployment and rising unfunded pension obligations to government workers.
A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said in a statement: "This law is doing exactly what it was intended to do by empowering New York's overburdened taxpayers to, where appropriate, vote to eliminate redundant and costly layers of local government entities."
Property-tax bills for residents to pay for the three Greenburgh fire districts have risen a total of 61% from 2003 to 2010, says the report, which calls the increase "a tremendous burden on the taxpayers."
Driving the pay disparity, the report says, is the districts' reliance on overtime, including to staff one district's dispatch operations. The use of overtime also has driven up pension costs because benefit amounts are based on workers' final year of compensation, including overtime. That has allowed some firefighters to retire with pensions exceeding $100,000 a year, the report says.
The Greenburgh citizens' commission, whose members include a retired auditor, a retired journalist and a fire chief, recommends consolidating three chiefs into one and lobbying state lawmakers to exclude overtime from establishing pension benefits.
Hartsdale Fire Chief Ed Rush, who sat on the commission but voted against the report, said eliminating two of the chiefs positions could require hiring additional firefighters to pick up many of their duties.
"Somebody has to pick up that work,'' Mr. Rush said in an interview. He said the districts' chiefs earn more then chiefs in nearby municipalities because they have more duties, such as handling hiring and repairing fire trucks.
In larger cities, those tasks are handled by the personnel or maintenance departments, Mr. Rush said. "We are chief executive officer, we deal with everything,'' he said.
As for the overtime and pension issue, they must be handled by contract negotiations, said Fairview Fire Chief Robert Mauro, who released a detailed rebuttal of the report.
Fire officials at the third district, Greenville, couldn't be reached.
Robert Bernstein, an Edgemont resident who lives in the Greenville District, says the overtime may boost average compensation per each fire-fighter, but it saves the district money in the long run because it doesn't have to hire additional workers and pay their medical and retirement benefits. "This is very weak analysis,'' says Mr. Bernstein of the commission's report.
The commission doesn't recommend consolidating the districts or closing any fire houses. A potential obstacle to consolidation: One district has about $7 million in debt, which the other districts likely wouldn't be willing to absorb.
Paul Feiner Greenburgh Town Supervisor