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Some City lifeguards push for higher pay as Austin continues to face lifeguard shortage

Right now, lifeguard pay starts at $16 hourly, but some have been pushing for a $6 raise in order to keep up with the rising cost of living.

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin still needs more than 500 lifeguards to open all 34 City pools this summer, and some lifeguards believe this shortage can be fixed by higher pay.

The lack of lifeguards has already had an impact on the year-round pools that are open. Since March, Barton Springs has been closed Mondays and Wednesdays due to the shortage while Deep Eddy’s shallow end has been closed weekdays for the same reason.

More than 20 pools are supposed to open June 6, but the City says to expect delays. They currently have around 200 lifeguards on staff and need 750 to operate all the pools.

The current pay for a City of Austin lifeguard starts at $16 but that rate can go up to $19. But some lifeguards have been meeting with city leaders to urge them to increase the minimum pay to $22.

"Rent in Austin has gone up 30% on average in the last couple of years,” said Scott Cobb, a lifeguard at Barton Springs Pool. “We are struggling paycheck to paycheck."

Cobb is a part of a group that is calling for higher pay and more benefits for lifeguards. You can read about all their goals here.

Cobb believes better pay will not only attract more lifeguards, but will get more experienced lifeguards too.

"They recently lowered the standards to work here at Barton Springs,” said Cobb. “You used to have to be 17, now you can only have to be 16."

Austin's Parks and Recreation Department said the 16-year-olds can only work in the shallow end of Barton Springs. The department also said they increased pay by $1 this year and that lifeguards make between $16-$19 per hour on top of being eligible for bonuses.

"$500 if you start at the beginning of the summer, another $500 if you finish the summer, and another $250 if you get an additional, advanced lifeguard certification,” said Jodi Jay, the assistant director of the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

Jay said that she believes their rates are competitive when compared to surrounding areas.

Round Rock lifeguard pay is between $16-$17 per hour. In Dallas, it's just under $16. In San Antonio, it is just over $12. In Georgetown, it is between $10.50 and $16.50. Typhoon Texas pays $11 per hour.

Delays are expected for some of the more than than 20 City of Austin pools scheduled to open June 6, but lifeguards and swimmers hope the City can get operations back to normal soon.

The group of lifeguards has met with different Austin City Council members, including Vanessa Fuentes.

Fuentes sent KVUE the following statement :

“Despite council’s recent efforts, we are still facing a lifeguard shortage across the City of Austin. As of May 12, 2022, the City of Austin has trained and hired 196 lifeguards. We would need about 550 additional lifeguards in order to operate all of our pools on a similar schedule to 2019. We must work to continue increasing wages and benefits for lifeguards in order to close the gaps and let our pools operate safely within our city.”

You can apply to be a City of Austin lifeguard here.

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