Life is good for the full-time lifeguard staff at California's Newport Beach, or at least it was, until someone caught a glimpse of their paychecks. Since a newspaper editorialized about salaries, benefits, and overtime pay that in at least two instances top $200,000 (with $400 for sun protection), a swell of anger from beachgoers and budget-watchers has blindsided the lifeguards. Only about half of that paycheck is salary, the rest is in the perks; after adding in overtime, special compensation, pension—Newport Beach's lifeguards can retire at 50 with 90% of their salary—medical benefits, and life insurance, even the lowest-paid officer made more than $98,000. The news comes as the city struggles to rein in pension costs.
Those whose salaries are in question point out that they hold management roles, have decades of service and are considered public safety employees under the fire department. "Unfortunately, there's a lot of disinformation out there. People get this idea that we're talking about 17-year-old kids in lifeguard towers making $200,000 and that's not correct," said the president of a lifeguards’ union. "We're professional level. Lifeguarding here is different than any other place in the entire world."