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updated: 8/24/2011 6:23 PM

Cary firefighters receive boost in pay

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For the first time in 15 years, the six full-time employees of the Cary Fire Protection District are getting base salary increases, officials said.

The district's board of trustees approved a new pay schedule for its two lieutenants and four firemen last week, trustee Bill Hauck said.

"We haven't raised the pay schedule since 1996," Hauck said, adding employees have only received cost-of-living increases since then. "It was the right thing to do."

The district surveyed 11 surrounding fire departments, comparing them for size and equalized assessed value, and found that the district's old base salary of $39,000 was the lowest among those districts by $10,000 yearly, Hauck said.

Under the new pay schedule, the starting pay for regular firefighters was raised to $50,000 yearly, with step increase over seven years that take the salary to $71,599. Lieutenants' starting pay was raised from $56,000 to $77,000, with three-step increases to $87,000, he said.

With the new pay schedule, the Cary Fire Protection District is still "close to the bottom" in terms of salaries among the 11 districts surveyed, Hauck said.

The district's revenues in fiscal year 2011 were $3.9 million, up from $3.8 million in 2010, he said. "I believe the taxpayers are getting a good deal," Hauck said.

Cary Fire Protection District Chief Jeffrey Macko has a separate full-time contract, and the deputy chief is an on-call employee, Hauck said.

"It was overdue," Macko said of the raises. "It's well-deserved. We've been at the very bottom of the pay scale."

The district has about 55 part-time employees, and officials will look at the feasibility of increasing part-time salaries as part of the next fiscal year's budget, which begins May 1, Macko said.