Police & fire chiefs say Paris losing first responders due to low pay

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PARIS, TX -- Monday night, Police Chief Bob Hundley told the city council Paris is losing officers to cities that pay higher salaries.

"We're not talking about a $1,000 a year, $2,000 a year, we're talking eight to twelve to $14,000 a year," said Hundley.

But police aren't the only first responders leaving for greener pastures. Fire Chief Larry Wright says firefighters can make a lateral move or even take a demotion and make more money in the metroplex or Sherman, Denison and Greenville than they can in Paris.

"A driver engineer here, started off as a rookie firefighter in Plano making $27,000 a year more," said Wright.

Right now, both the fire and police departments pay a similar salary.

"Base pay is about $34,000 a year," said Hundley.

"$36,000," said Wright.

According to Chief Hundley, the Paris Police department ranks in the 33rd percentile in the state when it comes to officer pay. A number he says if increased to the 50th percentile, could help retain officers.

In the past 10 years Chief Hundley says 52 officers have left the department, 37 of whom left mostly for pay related reasons. Chief Wright says during the the same time span, he has lost 28 firefighters for pay reasons. He says there is just no incentive for employees to stay.

"A firefighter here, that's a one year firefighter, makes the exact same salary as a 30-year firefighter here," said Wright.

Both of the chiefs say losing employees is more costly to the city than paying higher salaries.

"You not only lose the time and the money for replacement and training, but the thing that hurts a little bit worse is that you lose the experience," said Hundley.

City officials say they just don't have the cash to pay higher salaries, due to a lack of growth in Paris.

"Well if the population of Paris tripled there would be 78,000 and there would be a lot more money, because you can pay for a lot of things like that out of growth," said City Manager John Godwin. "If you're not a growing city that's difficult to do."

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