NEW ORLEANS, LA — For the first time in more than a decade, firefighters are getting a bump in pay. The raise is part of the new budget, Mayor Cantrell and city council members approved Thursday.
Surrounded by council members, Mayor Cantrell, applauded the passing of the 2019 Fiscal Year Budget.
“I know that we have taken the best step forward to ensure that 2019 will be brighter,” she stated.
With an almost $702 million spending plan, money will be allocated for multiple things like pay raises for most city workers.
“We want them to know we appreciate them,” said council member and Budget Committee Chair, Jared Brossett.
One group of recipients are New Orleans firefighters who haven’t had a pay boost in eleven years.
“It’s a big difference,” said Aarom Mischler, the President of Local 632. “We’ve been told many times before that it’s coming, it’s coming. So when it finally hit there was a surge of excitement.”
The 10 percent bump in pay now puts a firefighter’s base salary around $31,000. With more manpower needed, new recruits are also being promised.
“That’s another plus that was in this budget,” said Mischler. “They’ve allocated to hire 50 new firefighters this year.”
By adding money and staff, there’s now light after a decade-long battle for funding. However, while they’re most grateful, Mischler says they need more to help update their firehouses and equipment.
“We still have vehicles left over from Katrina,” said Mischler. “We have one truck in each district, those are all aging. Those are all the next things they plan on replacing.”
Council President, Jason Williams, says it’s something they’re looking at.
“The firefighters need it so we have to work on that,” he said. “Also EMS. EMS are woefully underfunded as well, and they need a pay raise. So there are a lot of people who need an increase and we have to find a way to get that to them.”
As city and firefighters work to get where they need to be, they’re both celebrating this step in the right direction.
“We understand it’s gone a long time, and it won’t be fixed overnight,” Mischler said. “They look like they’re willing to fix it and we’ll show them what needs to be fixed. Just to have that open dialogue with the council and mayor, they’ve had an open-door policy with us and we’ve gone back and forth. We’re working on a new contract, which we haven’t done since 2011, so we’re moving in the right direction and we hope it keeps going.”
At last check, Mischler says firefighters in New Orleans are getting paid about 35 percent less than police officers. A number they hope they can get close too in the future.