COLUMBIA — The Boone County Fire Protection District Board of Directors made further steps on Thursday to fit staff salaries into a standardized pay grid, while Fire Chief Steve Paulsell’s salary remains outside the grid.
Paulsell’s salary, which is $24,990.82 above the accepted maximum, will be addressed at a closed meeting one hour before the July 24 board meeting.
“I am doing some further research into the chief’s salary and other things related to that, we didn’t get that done for this meeting,” board member Dave Griggs said. “I am working on that post-haste.”
The board unanimously approved the following actions:
* Increase the minimum pay bracket of mechanic Jim Jennings, making his salary fit the grid.
* Set the minimum pay levels and 20 increments for each salary bracket. Each step increases pay by 2.5 percent, which allows the board more discretion for merit-based pay raises. This also raises the maximum level for each bracket marginally.
* Increase pay for three members below their bracket minimum up to the base pay.
* Increase pay for all members who are between a step up to the next step.
The increases will have an impact of about $30,000 for the coming year.
These actions effectively give everyone at the fire district except Paulsell a raise effective Wednesday. Griggs assured those in attendance that the district has the financial means to pay for the increases.
“I think this needed to be done a long time ago,” Griggs said.
Board member Shelly Dometrorch said that while the board approved the changes, it is no guarante the pay increases will happen automatically. She said any increases will be based on job performance.
“The District has to see each year how much is available, and then if they (personnel) merit the raise,” Dometrorch said.
Consultant Bob Scribner said the pay grid and merit steps place a “check and balance into the process of who receives what raise.”
Board Chairman John Gordon broke with custom and allowed public comment at the beginning of the meeting rather than the end.
Randy Sanders, deputy chief of the O’Fallon Fire Protection District and a member of Boone County’s Missouri Task Force One, made the roughly 95-mile trip on behalf of his fire board and Chief Mike Ballman to “support the chief (Paulsell) 100 percent.“
Former board members John Richard and Myrtle Rapp also spoke. Richard said a Missourian story that ran July 15 comparing the Lincoln, Neb., fire department chief’s pay to Paulsell’s pay was unfounded because Lincoln is an all-paid department, not mostly volunteer. He also asked why Paulsell’s contract is not considered valid by the Fire Protection District board.
Rapp said reading the story is also what brought her to the meeting and that comparing the two fire departments was like “comparing apples to oranges, not apples to apples.” Rapp said finding comparisons to the fire district is impossible due to its uniqueness.
Don Farris was concerned that the 31 years Paulsell has served as chief and his other unique qualities were not factored into the salary grid.
The board assured the speakers the grid reflected research from 10 fire departments, including the Lincoln Department.
Scribner said the fire chief salary for all the departments ranged from about $87,000 to $160,000.