The town council voted unanimously at Tuesday night’s council meeting to authorize a market pay study of the Garner Fire Department that would examine the staff’s pay ranges and recommend any increase in their pay plans if those salaries are below average.
The MAPS Group, who does the town’s pay range study, will conduct the study for the fire department.
According to Garner Fire Chief Matt Poole, the Garner Fire Department is well behind.
Poole twice raised the issue at committee meetings that the fire department was well behind the average of the different municipal fire departments in Wake County. He cited statistics that said the department was 12 percent behind market value compared to other municipal fire departments in the county.
The Garner Fire Department has the lowest starting salary of all the fire departments that have at least a portion of their salaries paid for by the town. Wendell’s fire department has a lower starting salary. But of the 12 municipalities in Wake County, their fire department is the only one that is fully-funded by the county.
The starting salary for Garner is $30,700. The next lowest is Rolesville at $31,000. The county pays 80 percent of Rolesville’s fire department, and the town pays 20 percent.
Poole has said 10 percent of his staff are at the bottom of the pay range.
“My biggest concern is to make sure firefighters are adequately paid,” Poole said earlier this month, “to make sure our firefighters are getting the money they should be getting based on the certifications and the service they provide.”
Poole requested that the town increase its pay plan as it will for all town employees, if the budget is approved in July.
The MAPS Group recommended the town increase the pay plan of all of its employees by 2.5 percent because they were behind market value. This does not increase salaries for town employees unless they are at a beginning salary. It increases starting salary and the maximum salary a person can earn.
Only 22 town positions, including some that are currently vacant, are at the bottom of the pay range. Eight positions are at the maximum pay range.
Unlike many of the other municipal fire departments in the county, Garner’s fired department is an independent agency paid for with money from both the town and the county. They are not considered town employees, so they were not included in the pay plan survey.
The town pays roughly 54 percent of the fire department’s budget, while the county pays 46 percent.
There have been a few disagreements between the town and the county over how much of the department’s cost should be borne by each entity.
Council member Buck Kennedy brought up the question of whether Wake County would be an active participant in helping to increase the pay plan.
Mayor Ronnie Williams and Kathy Behringer agreed that the county should help pay any increased costs.
“If they don’t participate we find ourselves where I don’t know if we fund them all the increase,” Town Manager Hardin Watkins said. “The answer we typically get back from (Wake County) is they have 19 agencies with the same relationship and we can’t do it for one unless we do it for all 19. That’s what we’ve heard about similar questions we’ve asked in the past, which is very frustrating.”
Behringer suggested sending the county a memo making them aware the MAPS Group will conduct the study.
The study will cost between $1,800 and $2,000, and is expected to be conducted some time in late June. It would be finished late in the summer, according to the agenda.
Any recommendations they may have for adjustments would not be incorporated in the 2015-16 budget, Rick Mercier, a spokesman for the town said.
Starting salaries for a Firefighter I
Wake Forest: $33,000
Wendell (fully funded by the county): $30,400