Part-time EMS ranks growing in Boyle after $4 raises

Published 6:19 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Boyle County hoped to lure back part-time EMS workers and alleviate some of the overtime pressure on its full-time workers with a $4 bump in part-time hourly pay.

That strategy may be working — the Boyle County Fiscal Court approved hiring four new part-time EMTs and one new part-time paramedic last week. Magistrates also approved posting a vacancy for a full-time paramedic position after one of the county’s full-time paramedics asked to move to part-time so she could return to school to become a physician’s assistant.

That gives Boyle County EMS six part-time employees it didn’t have prior to this fiscal year, when the hourly pay rose from $8 to $12 an hour for EMTs and from $11 to $15 an hour for paramedics.

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Boyle County EMS Director Mike Rogers had lobbied the fiscal court for the raises during the budgeting process, arguing he couldn’t get part-time help because surrounding agencies were paying substantially more. Without enough part-time workers, the agency’s full-time employees were working potentially unhealthy amounts of overtime in order to provide the necessary coverage — something that may have been costing the county more than the cost of hiring part-time employees.

Magistrate John Caywood asked Rogers during last week’s fiscal court meeting whether the new hires were a direct result of the increased pay.

“That’s definitely why James Crawford is coming back,” Rogers said. Crawford is one of the new part-time EMTs; he used to work for Boyle County EMS but wasn’t getting enough hours before, Rogers said.

The raises were a controversial piece of budget negotiations for this year. More than half the fiscal court members expressed concerns about the idea of such a large raise — 50% for EMTs and 36% for paramedics. The court initially approved $2/hour raises and put the money for an additional $2/hour in reserve.

In early July, the fiscal court voted 5-1 to approve adding the second $2/hour and completing the $4/hour raise.

Magistrate Jason Cullen was the strongest critic of the plan and the only one to vote against it when it passed.

“I wouldn’t just drop $4 raises on people,” Cullen said in early July. “That will set a precedent for your full-time people, as well, that they’re like, ‘Well, these other areas are paying full-time staff more, so we want a raise, too — you gave part-time a raise.’ I’m telling you — it’s a dangerous game you’re getting into.”

Last week, Judge-Executive Howard Hunt said the ultimate impact of the part-time raises is not yet clear.

“I won’t get into the details, but it’s having mixed reviews of some benefit and some impact that has not yet been fully realized,” he said.

The fiscal court approved the new hires with a voice vote; no one expressed opposition.