Apr 19, 2023 - News

City rolls out new lifeguard bonus structure

Photo: Bronte Wittpenn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Austin Parks and Recreation Department officials beefed up the pay structure for lifeguards, part of an effort to fill positions at pools and summer camps and avoid the staffing shortages of previous years.

The big picture: The department has 550 lifeguard vacancies and 100 summer camp positions open, a spokesperson told Axios.

By the numbers: Staff earn a minimum of $20 an hour and must work between May 21 and Aug. 12 to be eligible for bonus payouts.

  • Lifeguards receive a $250 bonus for 200 hours of work.
  • Three hundred hours and 400 hours of work each triggers another $250 bonus.
  • Last year, base pay started at $16 an hour and lifeguards could earn up to $1,250 in discretionary bonuses.

Why it matters: Austin has faced lifeguard shortages in recent years, forcing public pools to open later than normal or shutter altogether.

  • A recent report by the city auditor found that a new job application system exacerbated the problem last summer because it automatically rejected nearly every applicant.
  • In 2022, more than 1,000 people applied to be lifeguards. The audit found that 95% of lifeguard applicants received automatic rejections, but those notices were not usually accurate.

Of note: Lifeguard training and hiring starts at age 15 and there is no age limit.

  • The city oversees 45 aquatic facilities, which include Barton Springs Pool, 22 neighborhood pools and 11 splash pads.
  • Lifeguards also receive sick leave benefits, free bus passes and free parking at Zilker Park.

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