Provo City Council members unanimously approved a resolution appropriating $105,000 to the fire department’s budget in order to create more competitive salaries and attract new paramedics, according to the March 30 council meeting agenda.
“Over the last two years, we’ve seen several agencies up and down the Wasatch Front, as they are trying to recruit people into public safety, making significant adjustments into salaries that are paid to attract people into the service,” said Provo human resources analyst Daniel Softley.
Softley said Provo is behind in these trends for increased pay for first responders compared to surrounding cities.
Councilman Bill Fillmore said in the council work meeting earlier the same day that this change “seems like it’s entirely necessary.”
Rather than waiting for the beginning of the next fiscal year to propose these changes, city administration expressed the need to make these changes as soon as possible.
Softley said due to retirements, a request for medical leave, and some moving on to other jobs, there will be “nine vacancies in the fire service by July 1. We’re going to be filling four of those which leaves five more vacancies that we need to fill.”
The department has a specific need to hire paramedics for ambulances, and it hopes that competitive salaries for parametric positions will attract applicants to Provo.
“One of the things that we’ve noticed is that we’ve been able to hire EMTs, but have had a difficult time attracting paramedics,” Softley said.
Provo has the most EMTs working for the department that Softley has seen in his 20 years of work with Provo City. “These are qualified and quality people, but if we hire too many EMTs, it means that we start running into an inability to have minimum ambulance staffing levels,” Softley said.
“Paramedics have a higher level of certification, which means they can do more things on the ambulances,” Softley said. This higher certification merits higher pay, and while other fire departments statewide have made adjustments to their salaries budgets for paramedics, Softley said that “based on our current study, Provo Fire is behind.”
The Provo fire department often helps EMTs with their schooling to become certified paramedics, but between paying students overtime for when they are in school and covering the costs of paramedic training, the department can spend upwards of $35,000 for one certification.
Softley and other city officials hope that increasing the pay will cost the city less money and bring more paramedics to Provo soon.
“There is a paramedic class coming up graduating in May. The intent is to make these changes effective in April, so that we can be competitive for many of those graduates,” Softley said.
The revenue for the additional budget allocations came from the Wildland Fire Response Revenues, which compensates fire departments that assist in emergencies outside of their jurisdiction.
“Our fire department responds to fires across the country, primarily in California, and there’s additional revenue that comes in,” said Provo’s director of administrative services John Borget. “What we’ve done as a past practice is (allow) the fire department to utilize certain things that they need from that additional revenue that comes in.”