More firefighters are needed to manage the increasing number of emergency calls from a growing population and more workers will be hired to keep the growing number of Greenwood city streets in good repairs.

The proposed 2018 Greenwood city budget includes nine new employees, including three more firefighters and three street workers. Mayor Mark Myers said the additional employees, bringing the total number of full-time city employees to 262, are crucial because the city’s growing population requires more employees to ensure all the community’s needs are served.

The elected city council is analyzing the mayor’s proposed budget, which outlines raises for city employees, big purchases, such as leasing 12 new police cars to replace 12 older vehicles and growing the departments that face a constantly increasing workload.

The money for the new employees comes from a variety of sources: increased property tax revenue, additional state funding, more money from fees and consolidating other positions.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

The 2018 budget would add three full-time firefighters, three street workers, a probation officer, an economic development coordinator and an IT worker.

The additional employees will cost the city more than $700,000 a year in salaries and benefits, interim controller Kathie Fritz said.

Overall, the city’s budget is growing from $30.7 million to $34 million, Fritz said.

The additional employees are a necessary step to meeting the needs of a community that has added about 1,000 new residents each year, Myers said.

Greenwood’s population has risen to 56,545 in 2016 from 49,791 in 2010. The city’s population was at 36,037 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The probation department, which is funded from fees paid by offenders, is adding another probation officer because the number of offenders has risen steadily the past several years. An economic development coordinator will be tasked with recruiting more businesses to come to Greenwood and marketing the city.

With the number of streets in the city, which has grown to nearly 214 miles after past annexations, more workers are needed to patch roads and assist with repairs in the summer and keep the streets free of snow in the winter, Myers said.

With a rising population, including more homes and business, also comes increased revenue for the city.

Property tax revenue is projected to be up about $500,000 in 2018, a result of the new homes and businesses being built in the city, and rising property values from current properties, Myers said.

Greenwood is getting another $500,000 a year from a gas tax increase approved by state lawmakers earlier this year, money that also will help fund the new positions, Fritz said.

The fire department is eliminating six part-time firefighter positions and instead creating three full-time positions, but doing so will cost another $75,000, which will mostly cover the benefits for the full-time employees, Greenwood Fire Chief Darin Hoggatt said. The fire department is expecting a $100,000 increase in property tax revenue this year, which will cover the cost of those full time positions, he said.

The fire department traditionally has had a significant number of part-time firefighters to supplement its full-time force, which at times was up to two-thirds of the department, but finding and keeping part-time employees has become more challenging the past several years, he said.

In the last 18 months alone, nearly 30 part-time firefighters have left for full-time jobs at other departments after getting experience, Hoggatt said.

Filling those positions is a challenge in a job market with a low unemployment rate, he said.

“The labor pool is getting smaller,” Hoggatt said. “You can’t just go find a firefighter, they have to be trained. It usually takes a year of training prior to being a (part-time) firefighter here.”

While some turnover always is expected, more firefighters have been leaving to go to other fire departments across the state that are increasing their number of full time employees, he said.

The city council has been hearing presentations about the 2018 proposed spending and will have its first vote tonight to approve it.

By the numbers

As Greenwood remains a growing community, city officials say more employees are needed to handle the services they must provide to an increasing population.

Greenwood population

2010: 49,791

2016: 56,545

Fire department calls

2010: 5,475

2016: 6,520

Road miles the city maintains

2007: 179

2017: 214

At a glance

Franklin city spending

Learn what is in the proposed 2018 Franklin city budget.

COMING

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.