Some firefighters are wondering if a 2 percent pay increase promised for becoming EMTs will ever happen. According to the county fire chief it will, but not until the county fire has more money budgeted for the department.
According to several firefighters, if they were able to pass EMT school and the national registry exam, they would receive a 2 percent pay increase. Since the majority of calls to the fire department in Newton County are medical-related, having firefighters be EMT trained is an added bonus to the county and can potentially save lives.
Those firefighters that passed the exam or were EMT certified prior to recent budget cuts did receive the pay increase and still receive it, a fact that irks some firefighters.
"I’m not asking for a handout, I’m just asking for what I have worked very hard to earn. I held up on my side of this deal, its their turn," said one, in an e-mail.
According to Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield, the department has every intention of honoring its side of the deal — they are just unsure as to when that will happen.
"One of the things we did back in 2007 was we got incentive pay approved [by the Newton County Board of Commissioners] for firefighters that went to EMT school and were certified," he said. "We also made that a requirement for promotion. But when budget restraints started we had to cut funds everywhere and one of the things that was cut was incentive pay — countywide, not just for firefighters."
Satterfield said that he realized that EMT school was a sacrifice for many firefighters, taking time away from their families and money out of their pockets to pay for the class. He said that as soon as possible, the incentive pay would be brought back and that those men and women who were certified during the budget crisis would receive their increase at that time. He also said that those who received their increase prior to the budget issues would not have their raise taken away.
"The choice I face is where would I find the money to pay that and what would I have to do without," Satterfield explained. "We either cut out incentives or I have to lay someone off and I just can’t justify laying anyone off...We’re trying to manage a budget now that’s very difficult," he said. "And I will make sure we get that back just as soon as we can."