Belton: Firefighters speak out about pay and staffing issues

BELTON, Texas (KWTX) Firefighters in Belton have taken to social media to try and get answers from local leaders.

Some of the concerns raised by the Belton Professional Firefighters Association include better pay for firefighters, better benefits and fixing the current staffing issues.

“On the side of salaries, not lose guys that we are putting time into and training up and watch them go right next door for something we feel is simple as just looking at what the city can do to address those issues…benefits and salaries and staffing levels," Belton Professional Firefighters President David Holloway said.

He says the lack of response from city leaders has been ongoing since March until they turned to social media.

“There was no attempt to meet up until the Facebook post — the first one was made," he said.

Since August, the city confirms eight firefighters have left the department to cities such as Georgetown, Killeen and Waco.

In terms of pay, Belton has increased the annual salary for firefighters to $40,428 in the first year.

A first-year firefighter/paramedic in Harker Heights earns just over $50,000. In Georgetown, the starting wage is $49,675. In Killeen, the starting pay is just over $45,000.

For the city of Belton, as firefighters gain experience, the pay doesn't increase as much. According to city documents, a firefighter in their fifth year would make $43,333 and in year 15, the firefighter would make $48,687.

“By no means are these a bunch of disgruntled firemen upset about salary. All we’ve asked for is for them look at things, to ask the question ‘why are we losing people like we’re losing them,'" Holloway said.

In several Facebook posts, the association mentioned the low pay as to why experienced firefighters have left, leaving the department short-staffed.

Holloway says he hopes firefighters and the city are able to have a conversation to move forward.

In a statement to News 10, the city said hiring bonuses have been increased for experienced firefighters.

Also, the city posted a page on its website addressing the concerns from firefighters.

During the most recent firefighter recruitment, 25 people applied for a position. There are 30 firefighter positions and personnel work in shifts of ten, with a minimum staffing of eight per shift on any given day, the post stated.

For the fiscal year of 2019, the fire department budget was increased by 2.97 percent.

Still, firefighters are hoping that city leaders act quick on addressing their concerns before more firefighters resign from the department.