BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday put the final touches on the county's takeover of the former Spring Hill Fire Rescue District by approving a three-year contract with the newly-merged firefighters union. Under the terms of the agreement, all rank-and-file employees will receive 3 percent raises.
The contract, however, does not include a hoped-for step plan that would have helped to alleviate the discrepancy between the higher-paid Spring Hill employees. Robert Rae, the union representative for the firefighters, said that he was told that county commissioners weren't likely to support such an idea.
"In the end, we didn't feel the need to hold up the process to try to get the step increases," Rae said. "We'll just have to wait to try again next year."
County human resources director Cheryl Marsden said that the contract calls for pay increases only in cases where there is a promotion. She said that the step plan could be revisited in the second and third year of the contract.
Spring Hill's roughly 105 firefighters have historically enjoyed an advantage over the county's 130 firefighters, typically earning about 12 percent more annually than their counterparts. Rae said that the union's initial proposal called for county firefighters to receive about 3 percent annual increases for three years, while their Spring Hill counterparts salaries would be frozen at their present rates.
In addition, he said he wanted more comparable benefits to be offered to county workers. The new contract does provide some added benefits that county employees didn't have before, including a 10 percent increase in money that can be spent on a variety of benefits. In addition, the contract calls for reducing carryover sick hours from 880 hours to 640 hours.
Consolidation of the two districts began two years ago after voters refused to give an independent Spring Hill district any taxing authority. The official merger of the two departments was completed in October.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.