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Study shows first responders in Florence are underpaid

FLORENCE, Ala. – Emergency response employees for the city of Florence have been saying it for years - their pay has dropped out of line with other cities of similar size and they have been leaving their jobs here for higher paying jobs elsewhere. A recent study is backing up what first responders have been saying.

They work 24-hour shifts and on their days off, most of them have a second job. Florence Fire and Rescue is seeing a lot of turnovers and not just from retirements.

“Around 16 (have left) within three years, going to other departments for more pay,” stated Fire Chief Jeffrey Perkins.

It’s the same problem within the police department. In August 2017, Chief Ron Tyler told the city council they only had 77 officers, but were budgeted for up to 110. Both the fire department and police are losing experienced personnel.

“If those individuals leave, I mean that is knowledge that leaves the department and we won’t be able to get that knowledge back in a sense,” said Perkins.

A study of cities similar to the size of Florence has made it pretty clear responders are underpaid. For example, the study says a rookie firefighter in Florence starts out at $10.51 an hour. The same firefighter starting in Auburn makes almost double that.

“I would like to see them get a raise,” explained Perkins. “It will most definitely help with retention, and I think it will also help with morale as well.”

The city treasurer in Florence stated it would cost $1.4 million a year to bring the salaries more in line with other cities. The move is supported by the mayor’s office, but they just need a way to fund it.

The Florence City Council Finance Committee has been asked to explore ways to increase first responder pay. Once they find a mechanism, it could be presented to the entire city council for approval.

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