When the Payson Town Council voted to increase town staff salaries, it also approved a new steps system designed to keep fire and police officers in Rim Country.
The new salary schedule includes a 14 percent increase in starting pay for firefighters, with increases closer to 10 percent all along the salary schedule based on training, education and experience.
The town adjusted the police department salary schedule last year, resulting in sizable raises. This allowed the department to retain and recruit more officers.
The current fire department budget is about $4.5 million, roughly a quarter of the town’s general fund spending. The department includes about 30 firefighters.
The police department’s budget is $6.7 million, about a third of the town’s general fund spending.
Chief Financial Officer Deborah Barber told the council that HR Knows, the consulting firm that performed the compensation study, specializes in creating plans for police and fire.
HR Knows recommended the town implement a 12-step career path for police and fire. Within that, the police and fire chiefs would be assigned the criteria for each step.
The new salary schedule for fire boosts the starting salary from $12.85 an hour to $14.65 for a paramedic — a 14 percent increase.
A firefighter-engineer will make $20.64 an hour compared to the old rate of $20.35
A fire captain’s salary will go from $22.67 to $25.08, an 11 percent increase.
A battalion chief’s salary will go from $28.40 to $31.07, a 9 percent increase.
With the new schedule, firefighters will get raises when they get additional education or certifications.
“I think you will notice in the steps program that was put together for the police department that all of the continuing education, based on secondary education for like an associate degree or bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, were attached to those positions that would be in a building step program for upper level positions,” said Police Chief Don Engler.
So if a patrolman wanted to become a sergeant, the steps program would list what education, training and/or certifications were needed to move to the new level — same for a sergeant to move into a lieutenant and lieutenant to chief.
“I think if you look at the steps, those two are kind of hand-in-hand as far as preparing those employees for that next step,” he said.
The fire department steps program will include a significant raise for firefighters, as well as educational requirements to move up the career ladder.
“We have what we call PQWs, professional qualification workbooks, that you have to get through,” said Fire Chief David Staub.
Since the fire department has its own set of educational needs, the steps the council voted on were a good start, but would probably need to change over time, he said.
“The goal was to set standards to be in line with industry and allow them to get extra pay,” said Staub.