Denison Fire Rescue employees have until Jan. 1 to get a majority vote authorizing the changes to the firemen’s pension contribution the Denison City Council authorized Monday night.

With the passage of the 2020 budget, the Denison council authorized an increase in the contribution for the firefighters by an additional a 3-percent increase over the previous amount. This was subject to the firefighters paying an additional 1.25 percent into the pension fund for the city to match in contribution.

The Denison Fireman’s Pension and Relief Fund Board of Directors met on Sept 12. to discuss the matter. No action was taken on the item at that time.

Denison Fire Marshal Keith Bates said it had to be a majority vote by the firefighters to go into effect, and the firefighters have until Jan. 1 to make that vote.

At the Aug. 5 meeting of the Denison City Council Denison City Manager Jud Rex presented the item for consideration.

At that time he said the city was looking to equalize the contribution that employees and the city makes towards the fund, and the firefighters are the only city employees that are not on the Texas Municipal Retirement system.

“The goal of this proposal is to equalize the employee and employer contribution for the two different pension systems the city has,” Rex said. “This will require employees on the firemen’s pension to increase their contributions by 1.25 percent in return the city will contribute an additional 3 percent to their retirement plan. It has been on the radar for sometime. Out of a desire to make sure our employees are compensated equally we think it is the right thing to do.”

Rex said city employees outside of the fire department all receive social security thus the city contributes towards that fund for those employees. Since the firefighters opted out of social security, the city has not been playing into that for them. Rex said this change will make the contribution the firefighters receive close to the amount the non-firefighters receive from the city.

The city began making strides to increase the pay for the fire department back in June when the City Council approved a 20-percent pay increase for firefighters employed with the city. This was a reaction to the city’s earlier decision to backtrack on outsourcing emergency medical services to a private firm in an attempt to stave off employees leaving the department for higher paying jobs.

At that time, Denison Fire Rescue Chief Greg Lloyd said he was having trouble keeping employees who get quality training at Denison and leave for larger markets nearby. The department was down 11 firefighters then, and in an attempt to attract more applicants to the position, the city increased the pay effective in July right before entering into an agreement with NetLife Inc., to provide EMS services for the department during the training period the department needed to bring on more employees.

Since then the department has partnered with Grayson College to offer a condensed course in order to move firefighters into the fold quicker. This is a six-month course rather than the normal year long course.

“We’ve really only done one round of recruitment since the increase,” Rex said. “It has been very successful. We have eight new recruits attending paramedics school. That is more than the city has had come through a single recruitment. We’re excited and enthusiastic about that. We don’t expect it to completely eliminate turnover but it will put us more competitively when it comes to market pay.”