Left Out in the Cold

In response to an article posted on April 22, “County Weighs Salaries,” and for the County’s budget being finalized, I applaud the County Council for improving the pay of our County employees to a level to compete with neighboring counties. I am sure that those employees will be grateful for the increase in pay. I noticed that one thing in the article states that the increases in pay will bring these listed employees to a minimum in comparison to the neighboring counties, especially for these jobs that are described as safety sensitive.

Why are we trying for bottom-of-the-barrel pay for these employees who put their lives on the line? This county should be trying to entice the brightest and best that they can to fill the jobs at the correctional facility, in law enforcement and with EMS. We are never going to get the best law enforcement or EMTs/paramedics if we are just trying to pay minimums.

I had the opportunity to speak with several of these members of our public safety, and they all say the same thing: pay is a major problem. I was actually shocked when I spoke to a paramedic to learn that they were not even included in the pay raises minus the 2 percent mandated by state. The individual I spoke to said that Fairfield County EMS struggles to find quality paramedics because the pay is lower than most of the surrounding counties. They told me that there are numerous times they would offer a job to a perspective employee, but when the pay is announced, they do not accept the job and seek employment elsewhere. They also said that there have been at least four paramedics that have left Fairfield EMS in the last year to seek employment at other counties that have a remarkably higher pay rate.

Without giving details to prevent this person from getting in trouble, when asked what that person’s hourly pay was, I was embarrassed to be a taxpayer. My son, who works fast food in Blythewood, makes 25 cents an hour less than someone who is entrusted with saving my life should it come to it, and who is responsible for so much and at risk of disease, assault or death just from the nature of the job.

We as a county should be trying to make the pay of our emergency workers the best in the area. So much money is wasted on needless things, when it could be put to good use and bringing the best law enforcement, paramedics, EMTs and correctional officers we can to the county. No one knows the future, but when it comes down to it I want someone there for me that is the best, not just a person that had to be hired to fill a spot because no one else applied.

Jerry Smithers

Ridgeway

 

Comments

  1. Mr. Smithers,

    I do not know you nor do I have your contact information, so I am submitting the following information to you here. I hope you see it.

    Respectfully, I wanted to provide you with some context and further information regarding County employee pay raises for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year, and how some of our EMS workers are being affected by them. Just so I don’t type more than anyone might want to read, I’ve copied and pasted a couple things from your letter, and offered a response to them below. Please know, as an individual Council member, I certainly don’t speak for all of Council, and the information below represents my thoughts only.

    1. “Why are we trying for bottom-of-the-barrel pay for these employees who put their lives on the line?” — We’re not. The goal is to offer all County employees a more competitive salary considering those offered by our surrounding and similar Counties. The raises this year represent a first step on the path to reaching that goal. We can’t afford to get all the salaries where we want them all at once, so we opted to raise the salaries of those making less than the “minimum” (averaged from other Counties) at first, based off of our recent class and compensation study of the salaries offered by surrounding and similar Counties.

    2. “I was actually shocked when I spoke to a paramedic to learn that they were not even included in the pay raises minus the 2 percent mandated by state. ” — It is true that none of our Paramedics were included in the pay raise that was given based off of the results of our class and compensation study (because none of their salaries fell below the “minimum”), but, again, we couldn’t do everything all at once, and hope to be able to provide more, specifically to our Paramedics, in the future. All Paramedics will, however, receive the 2 percent cost of living pay increase provided to all County employees. This increase was not mandated by the state, and was solely a Council decision. In fact, Council has provided a 2% cost of living increase to all County employees for 2 years in a row now.

    In addition, I do want to let you know that, all things considered, I agree with you. We should have competitive salaries for all of our County employees so that we can attract the best and brightest; and again, that is the goal in mind and this round of increases was just a first step. I wish we could afford to do everything all at once, but we just can’t. Further, I do want to point out that, while no Paramedics’ salaries were increased this year as a result of the class and compensation study findings, many EMT’s salaries were, as were a majority of the employees working at our Detention Center and many in the Sheriff’s Department (since you mentioned these employees also). I do hope we can provide more salary funding for our Paramedics in the near future.

    To see the results of the class and compensation study for EMTs and Paramedics, please see the image at the following link: http://imgur.com/vD3eXnQ

    Thanks!

    -Billy

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