Greg Blackman, president of the Government Supervisors Association of Florida OPEIU Local 100, called the scenarios the nightmare list.
I didnt spend much time looking at them, because I thought they were so ludicrous, said Blackman, whose union represents nearly 4,600 professional employees and supervisors. Youre paying more than you would have paid if you were paying out of pocket. Its crazy, what theyre putting on the table.
Under the six proposed scenarios, the lower the contribution from an employees base pay, the higher the co-pays and deductibles. For example, employees now in the countys most popular plan, an HMO without a deductible, would face deductibles of $500 or $1,000. The co-pay to see an in-network specialist, depending on the scenario, would rise up to $25 from $10.
One scenario suggests doing away with the 4-percent contribution, but increasing premiums by 20 percent.
Gimenez said commissioners have asked to reduce or get rid of the 4-percent contribution, which was approved by the board only after Commissioner Barbara Jordan negotiated the number down from Gimenezs original 5-percent proposal and swung the vote in the mayors favor.
If our calculations are correct, were going to be able to get that 4 percent down, Gimenez said in an interview. The commission asked for that, and I agreed wed eliminate as much of that as possible.
But thats sugar-coating it, Martinez said, because employees will still be paying more it just wont be out of their base pay.
Its a way to try and garner union support, he said in an interview. Also, the tax roll should increase, so I dont understand why you have to increase co-pays or deductibles.
Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia wont release the tax rolls until June, which makes it tough for the county to get a handle on whether its budget will be bolstered by higher property values.
Martinezs memo to Gimenez, however, said he expects an uptick for the first time in years. Gimenez, too, said he is hopeful for an increase of 1 or 2 percent.
The budget will likely take center stage in the mayoral campaign. Gimenez, an ex-commissioner and former firefighter, will face Martinez, a commission veteran and former police officer, in a crowded field.
Commissioners must approve a new spending plan in September for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. They must set a maximum property-tax rate in July.
Gimenez, who has been criticized by the unions for moving too slowly on his much-ballyhooed reorganization, has touted savings from merging departments, which this year resulted in the elimination of more than 1,100 positions, most of them vacant.
He announced the elimination of another 527 vacant jobs, cut the pay of 10 demoted department heads who made six-figure salaries by 5 to 6 percent, and eliminated benefit packages for 280 executives.
But one of the most expensive pieces of the budget is still healthcare costs. This year, commissioners imposed the additional, 4-percent contribution and agreed to a one-time, $10 million raid of a health insurance trust fund to finish closing a $239 million budget gap. Otherwise, the administration said it would lay off hundreds of workers, including 118 police officers and 17 corrections workers.
The unions have challenged the move, which commissioners took up only after the mayor vetoed their original decision not to impose the concession. The unions argue Gimenez did not have the authority to veto the commissions initial vote.
Any new agreement with the unions wouldnt take effect until January, when the current one-year healthcare concession expires. Mary Lou Rizzo, the countys director of human resources, said deals need to be in place by late August or early September in order to cement the budget for the coming fiscal year.
We need to find a way to produce a balanced budget, she said. Do we reduce base pay? Or do unions make a larger contribution towards healthcare?
For Gimenez and Martinez, the question will be answered on the campaign trail and from the dais.
In the case of our workforce, let us not ignore that what began as an austerity measure has morphed into severe hardship for those who serve this community day in and day out, Martinez wrote in his memo to Gimenez. I trust you and my colleagues will join me in allocating these funds in a transparent and efficient manner.
Responded Gimenez: As a former member of the Board of County Commissioners for seven years, I fully understand that the final allocation of these revenues is the decision of the Board of County Commissioners.