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County Firefighters Get Pay Raise
Effingham County Firefighters got a pay raise last week. - photo by Image submitted

SPRINGFIELD – Effingham County Fire Rescue (ECFR) workers got their turn in the salary-increase line during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners on March 7.

The board unanimously approved a $3-an-hour raise for the department’s 65 full- and part-time employees. The changes will be reflected on their March 24 checks.

“We’ve had to make some adjustments for the sheriff’s office,” Sarah Mausolf, the county’s human resources director, said before the vote “Recently, we did our paramedics with the EMS staff and, at this time, we really can’t ignore our firefighters anymore.”

ECFR competes with surrounding counties and municipalities for first responders. The City of Rincon recently bumped its starting pay for firefighters to $16.29 an hour, plus they get a $1 hourly boost after one year on the job.

“We feel this will attract and maintain our recruits,” Mausolf said.

Mausolf said most recently departed ECFR firefighters, during their exit interviews, cited their pay as the top reason for leaving. Prior to the vote, ECFR recruits earn $13.48 an hour while in training. Their starting pay after graduation is $14.43. For a full-time firefighter, that works out to about $30,000/year.

Recent recruit schools have had low participation.

Board Chairman Wesley Corbitt said the pay scale for first responders in the region has changed quickly. He cited the exodus of people from the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic as a possible factor.

“We know we need this,” Corbitt said. “… We have a great fire department and a great chief (Clint Hodges), and we want to support them.”

The ECFR pay increase will not immediately impact the county budget.

“The current year, we should be okay simply because we have vacancies that we have in (ECFR) and other departments,” County Manager Tim Callanan said.

The salaries of other areas of county government will soon be examined.

“We just started the new budget meetings (for the next fiscal year) and there have been a lot of requests,” Callanan said. “We have been able to address the emergency personnel – EMS, sheriff, jail, 911 and now fire, but you are starting to see those pressures with regards to all the other administrative positions and we are going to try to address those with a (cost-of-living adjustment) in the budget.”