Ga. city approves up to 9% pay raises for paramedics

All of Smyrna's 46 paramedics will receive a 5.5% raise across the board, with the possibility of an additional 3.5% merit-based raise


Aleks Gilbert
Marietta Daily Journal, Ga.

SMYRNA, Ga. — Despite of the pandemic, and with a little help from the federal government, Smyrna was able to reward its employees Tuesday, approving merit raises for all employees and a substantial, across-the-board pay bump for its paramedics and public safety personnel.

The city's seven-member city council built the raises into the budget of the current fiscal year, which began in July. But they held off on approving the raises until the city had a better understanding of the impact the coronavirus would have on its finances.

"When we were doing our budget back in the summer, it was pretty much throwing darts, nobody had a clue what was coming at us, what the projections were going to be. ... I mean we just had to guess, unlike any other year," Norton said. But property tax receipts have come back better than officials had feared, and the federal CARES Act allowed the city to "pay back a lot of expenses relating to public safety, hazard pay, all of those things," he explained, "which really made a difference in filling the hole in our budget."

Smyrna's general fund budget for the current fiscal year is $54 million, about $1 million of which has been set aside for the raises.

The raises are as follows:

—Up to 3.5% for all employees

—An additional 3% for 179 public safety personnel, for a maximum of 6.5%

—An additional 2.5% for 46 paramedics, for a max of 9%

Norton, who took office Jan. 1, said he promised public safety employees a raise during his campaign for mayor, in part to stem the loss of police officers and firefighters leaving the city for higher paying jobs elsewhere.

That promise became more important during one of the most trying years in recent memory for such workers.

"I think all the public safety personnel have had the most difficult year that they've ever had, with the pandemic, civil unrest and all the other things that have been coming their way," he said. "It's one thing to say how much we appreciate them. ... We're putting our money where our mouth is."

All city employees are eligible for a 3.5% merit raise depending on performance reviews, which are ongoing, Norton said. The city has 406 full-time employees who earn an average of $50,499.

Public safety personnel will get a 3% raise in addition to the merit raises they may receive. A total of 179 people are eligible for that raise, 105 of whom are in the police department and 74 of whom are in the fire department. Their average salary is $51,733.

Of those, the city's 46 paramedics — who earn an average of $64,870 — will receive an additional 2.5% raise. According to Norton, city paramedics whose managers approve a full 3.5% merit raise will see their salaries jump by 9% when the raises take effect Jan. 1.

Police chief and interim city manager Joe Bennett has been with the city for 27 years. He said police officers probably haven't received such a large across-the-board raise since the 1990s.

"It's huge," he said.

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(c)2020 Marietta Daily Journal, Ga.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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