Linda Bell, Miami-Dade County Commissioner District 8
As a resident of Miami-Dade County, I highly value our county family of employees and greatly appreciate their service to our community. Elected to serve as a commissioner to look after the best interest of this county, it is not lost on me that all salaries and benefits are paid by taxpayers. In fact, last year when I voted to hold the line and not raise taxes, I knew that returning the full five percent would result in layoffs and service reductions. That was simply unacceptable.
It’s important to note that, when it comes to actual compensation, residents have not been told the whole story. A considerable portion of their taxes are going to pay for salary supplements and excessive benefits – not services. In the upcoming budget year, $113 million of extra benefits are slated to “snap back.” These supplements do not buy you a single extra service; in fact, they will result in a reduction of services.
As the County faces a significant budget gap, thousands of employees receive additional pay supplements designed to increase salaries by up to 45%, resulting in inflated and unsustainable adjusted pay salaries. The current County pay plan defines 187 pay supplements in addition to an employees’ base salary and benefits. These redundant supplements include pay for just showing up to work, first responder pay for the first responders, and extra benefits for simply performing the job they were hired to do.
For example, one of Miami-Dade County’s top paid employees earns over $210,000, enjoying seven supplemental pay adjustments, increasing his salary by a whopping 38% in addition to a $225 bi-weekly incentive.
With some employees collecting upwards of ten pay supplements, how can any public servant in good conscience propose laying off police officers or fire fighters who are on the front-lines saving lives when there are so many, who through the years, have accumulated layers of extra pay resulting in six figure salaries? The public needs to know that by eliminating supplemental payments and excessive benefits, we will unencumber approximately $230 million, more than enough to cover the current service level gap, avoid reduction in positions, and properly fund our Miami-Dade County Public Library System in its entirety.
Taxpayers should ask themselves if the County should be paying up to seven levels of “career development” supplements to reward employees for knowing how to perform their job. Is it not ironic that the County awards certain employees with an incentive just for showing up for work?
Total supplemental payments have increased by nearly $13 million over the last three years alone. Additionally, in the last 12 years every bargaining unit’s salary has increased between 59% and 120%.
We must put an end to the culture of entitlement created by labor leaders. If we truly hope to find a long-term solution to Miami-Dade County’s budget woes public servants should be treated no differently than any other hard working taxpayer who receives a well-earned salary and benefits. No more no less.
Now, as we all know, labor negotiations have trapped Miami-Dade County residents in the center of an abrasive budget battle between union representatives who are calling for an increase in property taxes versus those of us who refuse to raise taxes on residents who can ill afford them, as a result of the weak economy.
Union representatives must bear in mind that their members will be adversely affected, as well as the same community they swore to serve. This intransigence serves no one. However, by coming to the negotiating table, they can be part of the solution. They hold the key in becoming part of a better, stronger and greater Miami-Dade County.