MIAMI-DADE

Miami-Dade mayor: impasse looms with unions

 
 
GIMENEZ
GIMENEZ

mayor@miamidade.gov

Six weeks ago, the Board of County Commissioners overwhelmingly approved my proposed budget for fiscal 2013-2014 that kept millage rates the same as last year. While this required us to make some difficult decisions in the face of numerous financial challenges, the board agreed with me that our residents could not afford a tax increase.

When I first took office, I made a pledge to our community to protect our future. We need a government that is sustainable, one that takes an honest long-term view when it comes to our budget. Miami-Dade County continues to face budgetary challenges. In fact, just a few days ago, I convened the Mayor’s Task Force for the Public Library System to address the financial challenges facing our libraries so that they not only survive, but evolve and thrive, in the years to come.

I have been acutely cognizant of the economic hardships facing our community, which is why since I have been mayor the property tax rate is 12 percent lower than before I took office. We reduced the number of county departments to 25 and trimmed our operating budget by more than $300 million. We have also worked hard to make sure that the services vital to our 2.5 million residents remain in place and that our budget reflects our community’s shared priorities. We continue to make sure that vulnerable seniors get nutritious meals; our children have quality after-school programs at parks; police and fire services remain intact; our environment is protected; our drinking water remains among the best in the country.

One of the key components of our county budget is the yearlong continuation of the employees’ 5 percent contribution to the overall cost of healthcare. This concession, in place since 2010, by all of the county employee labor unions is set to automatically expire Jan.1, 2014. Knowing this, I made it very clear during my six budget town hall meetings, the board’s two budget hearings, and in all of my meetings with commissioners that our proposed budget was based on our employees’ continued 5 percent contribution.

My administration has been negotiating with the unions to keep this 5-percent contribution in place to avoid any impacts to residents’ service and prevent employee layoffs. Unfortunately, the unions are insisting that this contribution end so that employees’ salaries are increased. This impasse in negotiations will be decided by commissioners in the coming weeks.

The fiscal impact of this issue on our current budget is daunting. In our property tax-supported functions, which include general fund, fire and library services, the gap that will be created if the 5 percent is given to employees is over $27 million just for the nine remaining months of the fiscal year. I am not supportive of higher taxes, nor is there the ability to raise taxes at this point. We would be forced to look at service cuts and layoffs to balance the budget.

I am also strongly opposed to raiding our reserves. First and foremost, these salary increases would be a recurring cost, while reserves are a one-time source. This would mean that next year’s budget would begin with a $36-million gap, which is the value of the 5-percent contribution for 12 months. Moreover, our reserves are not at levels they should be and our focus should instead be on increasing them. I encourage all of you to continue your involvement in these issues by visiting our website: http://www.miamidade.gov/mayor.

I acknowledge the hard work and effort of our county employees; however, now is not the right time to give back the 5 percent contribution. Our economy, though improving, continues to be fragile and we cannot risk making decisions that could hamper our recovery. Instead, as public servants we should continue to lead by example.

As mayor my goal is, and has always been, to provide you with a government that is built on transparency, efficiency and fiscal responsibility — a government that balances the needs of our residents and what they can afford to pay.

Carlos Gimenez is the mayor of Miami-Dade County.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
MCT

    MIDTERM ELECTIONS

    Time for voters to come to their senses

    The boys and girls of Congress are returning from summer camp — er, Capitol Hill — to their real homes where they will 1) raise money and plead to be returned to camp; 2) stress how much they hate the nation’s political polarization; and 3) pledge never to compromise their beliefs.

  • CONGRESS

    Senators earn an ‘A’ for sexual assault bill

    Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t have much time for Democrats. But he does have two daughters. And so it was that Wednesday morning, he found himself standing in solidarity with a bipartisan group of senators that included Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill as they announced legislation to curb the scourge of sexual assault on U.S. campuses.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">HARASSMENT:</span> Members of the Ladies in White opposition movement, relatives of imprisoned dissidents who draw inspiration from their faith, were arrested during a peaceful march in Havana last month.

    HUMAN RIGHTS

    Support religious freedom in Cuba

    This year marks the 55th anniversary of Cuba’s current government and July 26 commemorated the 61st anniversary of the revolution which swept it into power. After coming to power, the Castro government broke its pro-democracy pledges and, despite recent improvements, maintains a problematic record on human rights, including religious freedom.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category