Employee pay raises on the agenda for Fort Smith Board

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 438 views 

A proposed ordinance that would give all non-uniformed Fort Smith city employees, except the city administrator and internal auditor, a raise effective April 3 is on the agenda for the Fort Smith Board of Directors regular meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 17).

The ordinance states that all city employees within their salary grade will receive a merit increase of up to 7% of pay based on performance in 2022.

“For non-uniformed employees at or above the maximum salary of the grade, a one-time payment (lump sum), that will not become part of the employee’s base pay, up to 7% of pay will be granted based on performance,” the ordinance states.

The city administrator and internal auditor do not have pay grade ranges and will have their rate of pay determined annually by the Board of Directors, the ordinance states.

Pay raises also are included in the ordinances for uniformed employees of the fire department and police department. The ordinance would set salary schedules for both. Fire department Step 1 salary for probationary firefighters and firefighters would raise roughly 5% from $13.09 an hour to $13.74 an hour, or about $41,680 annually. For step six firefighters, the highest step listed for a firefighter, the pay would increase from $16.71 an hour to $17.55 an hour, or roughly $53,238 annually.

Steps are included for captains, fire marshals, training officers, battalion and division chiefs and assistant fire chiefs. The step for Assistant Chief, Step 2 would increase from $108,195 annually to $113,570 annually.

“Probationary Firefighters hired by the City on or after April 3, 2023, shall initially be placed at the Entry Level (Grade F1; Step 1) of the pay schedule,” the ordinance states. “Internal transfers (with previous Fort Smith Fire Department experience), rehires and newly hired firefighters holding a current state firefighter certification with verifiable fire suppression experience (highly qualified applicants) shall be eligible for pay above the Entry Level but not to exceed Grade F1; Step 6.”

The new fire department salary schedule for uniformed firefighters would begin April 3.

A new step schedule for the police department is also included with a 23.85% pay increase for uniformed police officers and corporals with Step 1 pay going from $19.41 an hour to $24.04 or roughly $50,000 a year. The 2022 salary schedule has officer pay going up to Step 13 at $26.11 an hour, approximately $54,000 a year. The proposed 2023 salary schedule in the ordinance has police officers steps going up to Step 10 at $30.03 an hour, approximately $62,462 annually.

Steps are included for sergeants, lieutenants, captains and deputy chiefs. The highest rank listed in 2022 was deputy chief, Step 4 with an annual salary of approximately $91,032. The highest rank listed on the 2023 salary schedule included in the ordinance is deputy chief, Step 3 with an annual salary of approximately $112,551.

According to the ordinance, the new salary schedule will not go into effect until July 10, and no employee of any rank will receive a step increase through Dec. 31. Uniformed officers hired from April 3 through July 9, will be hired at the entry level of the 2022 pay schedule.

“All officers, besides myself, will be getting a 24% raise (if the ordinance is approved). We are freezing any step increases in 2023. They will start back in 2024,” said Police Chief Danny Baker.

Baker proposed in April 2022 when the board of directors was seeking a continuation of a sales tax that would partially go to the police department to use revenue from the sales tax to boost all salaries by 23.87% and begin adding five officers a year beginning in 2028. The pay boost would bring base pay up to $50,000 and cost about $2.3 million a year.

Almost 57% of city residents voting in the May 24 election approved the 0.75% sales tax extension that will see 83.3% of the tax revenue supporting federally mandated sewer system improvements, with the remainder directed to the FSPD.

The board of directors meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 17) at the Blue Lion, 101 N. Second St.