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Despite Pay Bump, Atlanta Firefighters Look To City To Commit More Funds

The Atlanta City Council budget includes a 3.1 percent increase for Atlanta firefighters, other fire rescue personnel and 911 dispatchers.
The Atlanta City Council budget includes a 3.1 percent increase for Atlanta firefighters, other fire rescue personnel and 911 dispatchers.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE file

Atlanta City Council members passed a $677 million dollar budget Monday that included a pay bump for the city’s firefighters. But, some say it’s not enough.

The budget includes a 3.1 percent increase for Atlanta firefighters, other fire rescue personnel and 911 dispatchers.

It builds on a similar increase approved last year for firefighters and police officers.

Nathan Bailey with the Atlanta Professional Fire Fighters Association said he’s grateful.

He said once the pay bump is implemented, the Atlanta fire department can become what he calls a “recruiting machine.”

“We can go out and get those prior experienced firefighters and instead of it taking 12 or 13 months, we can have them in the stations in 60 days, ” Bailey said. “And, Fire Chief Slaughter is on board with that. We can have our vacancies filled…possibly around the year, which would have been unheard of 12 months ago.”

But, some say while they appreciates the increase, it’s still not enough.

For example, right now, the starting salary for a firefighter in Atlanta is around $40,000.

And, to Paul Gerdis, that’s still not on par with other parts of the country.

Gerdis is the President of the Atlanta Professional Fire Fighters Association, which represents hundreds of firefighters.

Gerdis pointed to two different pay studies commissioned by the International Association of Firefighters and the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation. They both recommended an increase of more than 21 percent.

“Within the past two weeks, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation introduced an independent pay and wage study conducted by the Mercer group, the same group that conducted the APD [Atlanta Police Department] pay and recommendation study in 2018, ” said Gerdis. “It came back with the findings and the recommendation to increase AFRD [Atlanta Fire Rescue] pay by 21.4 percent.”

Last year, the Atlanta Police Foundation commissioned a study that showed the city’s officers pay was well below what other cities received around the nation, causing hundreds of officers to leave each year.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Atlanta Police officers would receive a 30 percent bump in pay by 2021. And, it would be done in stages.

Gerdis said his hope is firefighters can get a similar commitment from the city of Atlanta to stay on par the city’s police officers and increase recruiting efforts.

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