Scottsdale City Council appears poised to boost firefighter pay

Scottsdale fire fighters put themselves in harm's way to protect the residents of Scottsdale.

Scottsdale fire fighters put themselves in harm’s way to protect the residents of Scottsdale.

Scottsdale City Council Monday, Feb. 1 voted in favor of directing city staff to include compensation changes — up to a 5 percent increase in pay rate — for eligible firefighters, engineers and captains in the upcoming fiscal year.

The three positions identified were chosen because they are the first responders on the fire trucks, according to Human Resources Director, Donna Brown.

The compensation increase measure was approved 4-3 with city council members Virginia Korte, Suzzane Klapp, Kathy Littlefield and Linda Milhaven in the affirmative while Mayor Jim Lane, Vice Mayor David Smith and Councilman Guy Phillips were the dissenting votes. The item will be added to a future agenda.

In March of last year, city council directed staff to perform an analysis related to fire compensation. In August 2015, a cross-department team was formed with representatives from the city manager’s office, city treasurer’s office and the human resources department to establish the parameters of the fire department compensation study, records show.

City staff examined demographic data of local fire departments, staff comparisons and pay ranges. The other municipalities Scottsdale was compared to — Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Surprise and Tempe — have historically been used in past job studies, Ms. Brown said during the Feb. 1 presentation to council.

Fire Fighter Pay Range

Research shows the starting salary and pay for firefighters, fire engineers and fire captains are competitive in the local market, according to Ms. Brown.

“For city of Scottsdale, firefighters are about 5.3 percent higher; and for fire engineers it’s about 6.14 percent lower; and for fire captain it’s about 4.5 percent lower,” said Ms. Brown. “Which is still considered competitive. So minimum salary ranges we believe are competitive.”

Research also reveals Scottsdale’s maximum salary ranges for fire engineer and fire captain are higher than other valley cities.

“Fire fighters are only about 2.4 percent higher than the Valley average,” said Ms. Brown. “For fire engineer and captain, it is slightly higher, about 19 percent and 11 percent.”

However, Scottsdale does not provide supplemental pay — employer paid programs such as compensation for longevity pay, deferred compensation and succession pay. The addition of supplemental pay to comparable city’s pay ranges supports the maximum salary range differences, Ms. Brown said.

“The city of Scottsdale does not have this type of program,” said Ms. Brown. “We do, however, have specialty pay programs — assignment driven pay such as: paramedic pay, Hazmat pay, technical rescue and airport rescue.”

In addition, Scottsdale is below the market value for paramedic, technical rescue and airport rescue pay.

“Looking at the specialty pay comparisons, we are considerably lower than the valley averages,” said Ms. Brown. “The paramedic pay is 27 percent lower compared to the valley average for the city of Scottsdale; for Hazmat pay it is 22 percent lower; for technical rescue it is 25.5 percent lower; and airport rescue is 26.8 percent lower.”

(Photo by Scottsdale Fire Department)

(Photo by Scottsdale Fire Department)

City staff recommended the following to stay competitive and to reduce the pay deficiencies in specialty pay programs:

  • Propose up to 5 percent within the established ranges based on performance;
  • Propose increase to specialty pay for paramedics from $5,400 to $6,800 to be more in-line with local market average;
  • Propose to increase singular specialty pay for Hazmat, technical rescue and airport rescue from $2,520 to $3,200 to be more in line with local market average.

During fiscal year 2016-17, the up-to five percent pay for performance increase would cost the city about $300,000; $200,000 for the paramedic increase; and about $6,000 for specialty pay increase resulting in a total of about $580,000. Over a five-year period that will add up to $4.92 million, numbers show.

Councilwoman Milhaven showed an abundance of support for the programs.

“I’m definitely supportive,” said the councilwoman. “I’m so excited to see that interdisciplinary groups representing a lot of different groups within the city come together and do market research. To say, ‘what do we need to do to make sure we’re doing the right thing by our fire fighters and to do the right thing by the citizens to make sure they’re getting value for their tax dollars?’”

Mayor Jim Lane and Vice Mayor David Smith both voiced concern for the 5 percent performance raise.

“My concern is where are we going with the 5 percent and how do we decide how we are going to get there?” said Mayor Jim Lane.

“We are considering the fact that we do not have these supplemental pays — the 401Ks, the longevity — but there is a component for that the other municipalities have when we are considering our competitive position.”

  • Councilwoman Milhaven made a motion to direct staff to:
  • Provide council with answers for all questions and requests for additional information including a graph displaying maximum salary ranges;
  • Pay range and actually salary comparisons for the firefighter, fire engineer and fire captain positions and where the city ranks in relation to the Marketplace for these positions;
  • The path the city will be taking if a five percent across the board increase through to the top of the salary range is approved;
  • A performance-based plan for the fire department that identifies evaluation criteria, the method for determining who gets what, and the ranges;
  • A summary of fire department employee-paid union dues from those municipalities with labor unions.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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