You can tell them, but they won’t understand

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Why is it that the Firefighters, Police Officers, and Teachers have to stand up nearly each year and fight for fair pay? I cannot speak on behalf of the PD or Teachers on the specifics, however I know that it seems all to often that we are fighting for proper pay, pay grades, benefits, and treatment.

The way it used to be…Back in the day, Roanoke City offered a cost of living raise as well as a merit raise. This has been replaced by one annual raise supplemented by a “merit raise” which is not easy to achieve for most of us, and too easy for others. This supplemental raise might reach 1% beyond the annual raise which is announced by the City Manager. This year it is rumored that we will receive 5%.

5% is a decent raise, I am grateful for it, and I am sure the rest of my coworkers are as well.

However, due to the fact that the 5% is added to the base pay, we do not move very far from the entry level, or base of our grade level. The top end of the grade point continues to move further and further away.

Now let us talk about the cost of living. I have brought this up in the past. It seems as though we are always compared to areas in NOVA which most people believe have higher cost of living. We are told “How can you possibly expect to make all that money, it is sooooo much more expensive to live up there.” Well I have news for you, Roanoke isn’t the cheapest.

Let me throw some numbers out for you. Don’t quote me on them, but I believe these to be fairly accurate:

Starting pay for a Firefighter/EMT

Fairfax County – 46k
Fairfax City – 44k
Loudoun County – 38k
Prince William – 39k
Virginia Beach – 38k after recruit school
Henrico County – 37k
Richmond – 36.5k
Norfolk – 33k
Roanoke City – 31k
Lynchburg – 31k
Roanoke County – 30k
Danville – 30k

If you use this little tool online, you will see that Richmond, Petersburg, Lynchburg, Norfolk (including Virginia Beach and Newport), and Danville are all cheaper places to buy a house. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t list the Northern Virginia areas. But I think it is safe to say that those areas, at least some of them, might be higher.

So there we are on the bottom of the totum pole. It is no wonder that up to 3 more firefighters are rumored to be leaving the department shortly. I don’t mean retiring, I mean going to other departments. I have heard that one is going to the Atlanta area, another to Albemarle, and I have not heard a place for the third.

It is pretty bad when we have some seasoned officers who could go to other departments and get a raise.

This is just a taste of the issue with firefighters pay compared to other areas of the Commonwealth. We have a bigger problem with pay compression among the ranks. From Firefighter to Battalion Chief we have overlapping pay, some Firefighter Medics making more than their Captains. This is a real problem. I understand that the City is looking into the Battalion Chiefs pay, which will spread things out a little bit.

How many more will leave. 15k a pop out of recruit school, we are only getting a couple of years use out of many of them anymore. My recruit school from 1999 only has about half that have stood the test of time. I guess I either didn’t care enough to leave, or care too much and am still trying to fight for what we deserve.

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