According to a slideshow attached to Monday’s agenda, the department has lost 140 people in less than six years. Only 39 were because of retirement.
Because of staffing shortages, the department has struggled to maintain the National Fire Protection Association standard of four firefighters per truck.
“You can see the large number of people moving on to another department and it’s largely due to pay,” spokeswoman Dee Griffin said.
It costs about $23,000 to train new recruits to be certified firefighters and emergency medical technicians. A class of 25 new recruits could cost as much as $575,000 to train.
Once those firefighters make their way through training, they will receive far less pay than their Georgia counterparts in Atlanta, Savannah and DeKalb County, according to the slideshow. The department’s lowest-ranking firefighters get an annual salary of $26,844.48. The fire department is proposing boosting the salaries of new recruits to $30,000.
The proposal also would raise salaries of many other tenured employees within the department to reduce pay disparities and align pay with rank, preventing subordinates from earning more than their supervisors.
“It’s in the hands of the commission,” Griffin said. “(Chief Chris James) is fighting hard to maintain the staff and also look after the firefighters who risk their lives to do their jobs while providing for their families.”