It is that time of year again when Georgetown County Council sits down to make up the coming year's budget. I am encouraged that Councilman Ron Charlton has spoken out publicly on the need for the County's first responders to get a raise. I urge the citizens of the Waccamaw Neck to call, email, write, fax or communicate directly to their respective representatives demanding that the men and women of Midway Fire Rescue receive a raise that puts them in parity with the neighboring fire departments.
As it is now, Midway is the lowest paid organization among the following: Horry County, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet/Garden City, Georgetown City, Conway, Charleston, North Charleston, Charleston County.
Five years ago, Georgetown County employees including Midway Fire Rescue salaries were reduced by 3 percent. Since then, they have had no salary raises, but have received two small remunerations. Additionally, State Health and Retirement payments have increased. This year the impact is even greater. The S.C. state government is requiring another increase for employee health coverage. This issue is currently in the courts.
In addition, employees will have to contribute an additional half percent toward their retirement. The U.S. government has restored the Social Security tax to 6.2 percent, a jump of 2 percent. This means that Midway's employees are now making less take home money than they were last year and considerably less than they received five years ago. The result has been a major turnover of skilled firefighters. At last count over 28 firefighters have departed Midway for greener pastures, 16 in the last year.
That is an unheard of rate of attrition for this vocation. The hiring, outfitting and training of new employees is costly. Add the overtime required to make up for absent employees and the cost is even higher. The loss of experience personnel is paramount to disaster.
In the last year, County Council has found the money to build and maintain ball fields, hire a tennis pro, hire a spokesperson, it is time they fulfilled their obligation to provide a competitive wage to our first responders. I urge you to stand behind Midway Fire Rescue and support a competitive salary increase.
Richard C. Faulk