SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – On Wednesday, Aug. 17, Sedgwick County firefighters received what some are saying is a long overdue pay increase from county commissioners.

Commissioners approved a request for a budget transfer of $700,000 from the Fire District contingency to the Fire District’s personnel budget.

Douglas Williams, the Fire Chief of Sedgwick County Fire District 1, said that with this extra $700,000, they will be able to implement a new pay step plan by October. Many changes are being discussed to increase pay and also build better relationships with the cities in Sedgwick County.

“Anytime we get into a step plan, it’s been our belief that a step plan is a productive way to pay our personnel and that way they know that they are going to get an annual step, and it creates a lot of security for our person,” said Chief Williams.

The step plan lays out exactly how much money each employee will make.

During this time, the Wichita Fire Department Union is also pushing for higher wages.

“We’re working with the fire board and the human resources department right now at what we think we can do to make our pay competitive. We have great firefighters, and we have great employees, and we want to keep them,” said Chief Williams.

After the county’s fire union spoke with Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell, additional changes are on the table for the fire department.

“Some of our cities don’t have good communication with the fire district administration, and that lack of communication has hindered us in having a better relationship,” said Chief Williams.

To help that relationship, a steering committee was proposed, similar to an advisory board.

“I do believe it’s a step in the right direction to make sure that the fire district receives the attention that it deserves,” said Commissioner Lacey Cruse.

Another proposal is outsourcing administrative duties.

“In a way, consideration of saving money and looking for efficiencies and trying to free up budget so that we can help out with our payroll and our personnel cost,” said Chief Williams.

The fire chief said he is currently talking to other fire departments that handle their own administration services and other officials to see how they could cut costs. He said the department will need time to make these kinds of changes.