Earlier this week, the International Association of Fire Fighters released its rebuttal to last week’s City of Memphis salary comparison report, which showed that when compared to the average of 22 cities, Memphis firefighters earn $1,672 more than the average.

At the time, the Memphis Firefighters Association made the point that salaries should be compared to the eight cities now recruiting in Memphis.  When using those eight cities, the IAFF report showed that Memphis firefighters with one year of service, when total compensation is compared, including extra pay and allowances, earn $35,396 compared to the average of the eight cities of $46,228.

We don’t begrudge whatever pay that firefighters can get or believe they should be paid less,  but we had been looking to make the point that these comparisons don’t factor in a major variable – cost of living – which often puts Memphis on the wrong side of these comparisons.  After all, Memphis has one of the lowest costs of living for cities of its size.

Apples and Applies

The IAFF reported that the total compensation for a firefighter in Memphis with one year’s experience is $35,396.

The following list has the eight cities’ compensations followed by the amount a firefighter from Memphis would need to earn to have a comparable lifestyle in each city, including housing, utilities, transportation, health, and miscellaneous costs.

The first column following the city name is the average compensation for firefighters with one year’s service in that city and the second column is the amount that it would take to have the same quality of life as the $35,396 in Memphis.

City                Salary            Comparable

Aurora             $45,892           $44,462

Austin              $50,922           $51,358

Baytown          $56,477           $39,109

Clearwater      $41,796           $45,041

Dallas              $44,658           $51,262

Houston           $40,744           $47,355

St. Pete            $37,504           $43,112

Washington     $51,835           $74,264

Again, we’re not trying to pick on firefighters, and we understand their concern that the city government study cherry picked cities for its study.  We don’t know if that is true, but both studies ignore the fact that Memphis has one of the lowest costs of living in the U.S. for a city of its size.  We tend to take this for granted here, and as a result, we have more than report that are the proverbial apples to oranges.  We don’t fully capitalize on this as a competitive advantage for business but also a magnet for young talented workers.


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