ATLANTA (CW69 News at 10) — Following union complaints of short staffing, long hours, and low wages, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced a pay raise for firefighters at an event at the Georgia Aquarium on Wednesday morning.

Inside the Georgia Aquarium and far removed from the norm of extreme heat, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation hosted the Breakfast With Our Bravest program on International Firefighters’ Day. The event allowed officials to recognize firefighters and civilians who went above and beyond the call of duty over the past year.

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“I introduced my first budget on Monday, and I am pleased that we are moving forward with pay increases for Atlanta firefighters,” said Dickens.

The pay increase will be about 12% across the board, based on recommendations from a Mercer pay study. Union officials who addressed city council members on Monday pointed out higher pay scales in areas like Cobb and Gwinnett counties, where they said top firefighters earn more than $70,000 a year, while Atlanta pays an average of $55,000.

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Fire officials are optimistic the 12% pay raise in the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget will help them retain and recruit more firefighters.

“We really want to thank the mayor for his support,” said Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith. “This pay raise, it closes an immediate gap, and it allows the Fire Rescue Department to be attractive in the market.”

According to Chief Smith, the city is planning to conduct a pay class study this fall, including those in the fire department. He says the city is hoping the study will help with ongoing firefighter retention and recruitment efforts.

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“The raises continue to make us a competing agency throughout Metro Atlanta,” said Shirley Anne Smith, the executive director of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation. “Eventually, we are going to be able to actually have a workforce that represents the growth of the city.”