With the broad strokes of a nearly $1 billion operating budget already set, Miami commissioners delved into the minor details of their 2017 spending plan Tuesday night during a second and final budget hearing.
And, in a display that illustrated why some believe Miami’s “executive mayor” form of government is highly dysfunctional, that meant a contentious 11th-hour debate on pay increases afforded City Manager Daniel Alfonso.
Alfonso, whose base salary by contract is $199,0000, received a 5 percent pay increase in the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30. In the proposed 2017 budget, like other nonunion employees, he is set to receive another 5 percent pay raise, which was explicitly stated in the proposed budget.
But prompted by Frank Carollo, commissioners spent some tense moments debating whether Alfonso received the appropriate performance evaluation before receiving his pay bump this current year because his contract calls for the commission to approve any salary increase. Carollo suggested Alfonso snuck his raise past commissioners.
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“This lacks the transparency that your office at least portrays to express,” Carollo said. “Some, I’m sure, will even go as far as to think that this could be interpreted as embezzlement or grand theft.”
Alfonso shot back that a memo about citywide pay increases informed commissioners about his raise, which he said was authorized in a portion of his contract that allows for a cost of living adjustment equal to the largest bump granted to any of the city’s employee classes. Mayor Tomás Regalado, smiling the entire time, also told commissioners that under the city’s charter, “You don’t have the right to evaluate him. I do.”
Regalado, who as “executive mayor” includes naming the city manager as one of his few responsibilities, said he gave Alfonso “an A-plus.”
The discussion ultimately prove to be a lot of drama without results. A proposal by Carollo to require commissioners to approve any pay bumps for Alfonso died due to concerns about overstepping the commissioner’s powers in the city charter, and his increase remained in the budget. And the manager will still get his pay raise next year.
Commissioners did made actual progress in other spots Tuesday night when tinkering with the budget, which thanks to historic property value levels, sets forth a record $670 million general fund even while slightly decreasing the overall tax rate. All the city’s increased revenues “and then some” are going to pay for increased salary and benefits for city employees, according to Alfonso.
But after squeezing in money during an initial budget hearing for church security cameras and victims advocates, commissioners found room Tuesday to work another $300,000 into the budget to create a relief fund for evicted families. Commissioner Ken Russell suggested that the money be set aside due to the expectation that West Grove families will be ejected from their apartments next week by a “slumlord.”
Alfonso also noted Tuesday that the city is working on a settlement with the Securities Exchange Commission, which just won a civil securities fraud trial against the city. But he said the expected penalties — which weren’t detailed Tuesday — will be paid out of the current budget.