SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Firefighters with the City of Spartanburg Fire Department will not be getting as much of a pay raise as they had hoped. Leaders with the department say that could mean losing more hardworking men and women to better paying departments.
This is the career Jared Van Ek told 7 News, he always wanted.
“You’ve helped somebody else and they’re going to be better for it,” said Jared Van Ek with the Spartanburg City Professional Firefighters Association.
He has been fighting fires for the last three decades, but now he and others with the Spartanburg City Professional Firefighters Association said they are battling something else- some city leaders over a significant pay raise.
“We can’t keep losing the younger generation or we’re going to have that experience gap,” Benjamin Baker with the Professional Fire Fighters Association of South Carolina said.
They’ve received cost of living increases through the years but they haven’t had a raise in over a decade. City Manager Chris Story has been recommending a 13.7% increase. But that’s less than what the fire chief requested and firefighters say it’s not enough to fix the problem.
“Last year, we experienced a 28% attrition rate in our department which is very high and that poses a problem in the public safety aspect, that we’re losing experience,” Van Ek explained.
Some city council members have shown support for a significant pay increase like Erica Brown and Ruth Littlejohn, even Mayor Junie White at Monday evening’s city council meeting.
Other council members believe what’s budgeted is fair.
“What we had to do here was balance our budget,” Councilman Jerome Rice said.
That’s why city council moved forward with that budget Monday evening, claiming more raises could happen down the road.
But without changes now, some firefighters told us they’ll be looking to move to other departments offering more money.
Surrounding agencies offer a starting salary between $38,000 and $40,000 a year. Right now, that number sits around $33,000 for the City of Spartanburg Fire Department, that’s before the raise that passed Monday evening.