County leaders view it as a way to stop the bleeding.
After years of working as one of the lowest paid emergency medical services in the region, members of the Walker County Commissioners Court took the first step on Monday to right the ship. With a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved a near-14% total increase to EMS salaries, which will result in an expected 0.8-cent per $100 valuation property tax increase.
“Salaries have been an issue for many years, and we are having trouble maintaining paramedics,” said Commissioner Ronnie White (Pct. 2), who also noted that the department had three vacant paramedic positions with no qualified applicants. “I don’t see that we can wait too much longer, we have to help the ones that are there. I don’t know if this will fix the problem, but it will help.”
Huntsville-Walker County EMS currently has a turnover rate of approximately 57%, after losing eight paramedics between November 2019 and May 2021. The starting salary for paramedics with the department is $48,343, approximately $9,628 below the local average and $11,145 below the median salary of paramedics in the region.
Annually, the approved pay raises will result in a $312,595 total increase.
“I’m not sure if this pay bump will get us to where we need to be, but it’s a start,” Commissioner Bill Daugette (Pct. 3) added.
The vote comes on the heels of an approved pay raise for the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, which will result in a near 2-cent increase to the county’s property tax rate.
“I voted against the sheriff’s office pay raise, because of the impact to the tax rate. EMS also has some different problems, and it’s more than just this. They are working some ungodly hours and certainly need more manpower and more positions, not just money,” said Commissioner Danny Kuykendall (Pct. 1), who voted against the request.
In other businesses, commissioners:
• renewed the disaster declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic and ended the disaster declaration for February’s winter storms.
• approved a secondary contract for secondary civil engineering with Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong.
• approved a proclamation recognizing first responders.
The next scheduled meeting of the Walker County Commissioners Court is scheduled for June 21.