Tupelo could reach compromise and raise firefighter wages

TUPELO – Firefighters facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost overtime could regain some earnings in a tentative compromise pitched this week at City Hall.
The deal would return about $100,500 to the fire department’s 84 hourly employees through a modest increase to their base wages. Depending on their rank, firefighters could get between 2-3 percent raises.
But they’d still collectively lose about $167,500 in overtime pay that Chief Thomas Walker plans to cut from his next fiscal year budget.
Those cuts come amid calls to tighten municipal purse strings across the board as leaders prepare for another tight fiscal year.
FY11 begins Oct. 1, and Tupelo has until Sept. 15 to adopt its budget. It’s unclear at this point whether the city’s other roughly 400 employees will get a raise.
Walker initially had planned to shave $268,000 in overtime costs from his department, but some City Council members complained.
They argued firefighters expect overtime pay as part of their base salaries because they had been earning it consistently throughout the years. Without it, they’d lose hundreds of dollars a month.
Tupelo firefighters typically work 14 hours of overtime per pay period.
In a deal pitched this week, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said the city would take those 14 hours – per person, per pay period – and convert them into a base salary raise.
All other overtime costs still would get cut unless absolutely necessary.
“I think that’s the best of both worlds,” said Ward 5 Councilman Jonny Davis.
Others agreed.
Walker was not at the budget meeting when the compromise emerged. When contacted by the Daily Journal later, he said he still was crunching numbers and didn’t want to comment until he had everything settled.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal