Libraries and parks underperform on payday in Miami-Dade

06/04/2014 12:57 PM

06/04/2014 7:09 PM

In Miami-Dade County government, some paydays offer reasons to cheer and others reasons to scrounge.

Like most large enterprises, Miami-Dade’s $2 billion payroll covers a range of compensation, from low-wage positions for part-time workers to six-figure salaries worthy of a corner office in the private sector. Disparity can be found department by department, too.

With worker compensation already a battleground in the upcoming budget debate, Dade Data wanted to sort out where county departments rank in terms of pay.

For this analysis, Dade Data harvested 2013 compensation reports from a county database covering more than 27,000 Miami-Dade employees. We then used those pay figures to calculate median compensation for 36 county departments.

Countywide, median pay hit $61,248 last year, according to the Dade Data analysis, meaning an equal number of workers earned less and an equal number earned more. The chart above tracks departments with median pay either 20 percent below or above the countywide median. [Can’t see a chart? Click here.]

Some top-line results:

• While librarian salaries have gotten scrutiny in that department’s ongoing budget struggles, the entire library department ranks fairly near the bottom in terms of compensation. The 500-person payroll generated a median pay of about $40,000 last year, which put it five spots above last place.
• Public-safety unions tend to have success negotiating strong pay packages, and the police and fire departments fare well in the rankings. Miami-Dade’s fire department recorded median compensation of $93,000 last year, and the police department saw $80,000. But they’re both outpaced by the county’s Inspector General’s Office (median pay: $102,000) and the county’s Information Technology Department ($96,000).
• The tiny Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust, which administers the county’s .5-percent sales tax dedicated to transit, tops the list, with a median pay of $104,000 for eight employees.
• Parks, where more than half the workers are part-time, finished last on the tally, with median pay of less than $21,000. Rounding out the bottom five were the departments of Library, Animal Services, Community Action and Human Services, and Judicial (which does not include judges’ salaries).

As is the case with large sets of data, the county’s payroll records don’t offer a precise picture.

The data includes records for all workers on the payroll in 2013, including those only working for a short time — either because they left the county after a few weeks or started late in the year. So an employee’s tiny full-year payout will skew a department’s median pay lower. A concentration of part-time workers being paid for only a few hours a week will also drag down the median-compensation figure.

One hefty paycheck can skew the median figure higher if there aren’t that many other people on the payroll. So small departments with well-paid directors tend to look more generous. (The Transportation Trust’s executive director, Charles Scurr, is listed as earning $207,000 last year in wages and benefits, while the lowest-paid employee on the department’s payroll, a secretary, earned $48,000.)

And because Miami-Dade employees get reimbursed for unused sick time and other perks when they leave, retiring employees can also inflate a department’s payroll figures. In our analysis, 29 year-end paychecks topped $100,000 in 2013.

Since Miami-Dade faces employee costs that aren’t paid to workers — including payroll tax, health-care contributions, and other fees — the county’s actual payroll costs are higher than what’s covered in the compensation database.

The posted compensation figures include money Miami-Dade pays for employees’ healthcare and retirement plans, so actual paychecks would be lower than the figures we’re listing.

For 2013, County Attorney Robert Cuevas recorded the largest 2013 compensation at $377,000, but that slipped to $352,000 once certain benefits were backed out of the figure. Assistant county attorneys occupied the next eight positions on the list, with former Inspector General Christopher Mazzella landing the No. 10 slot with 2013 compensation of $308,000.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez earned $151, 000 last year ($146,000 with certain benefits backed out). That made him Miami-Dade’s 364th-best paid employee.

We’ve included the full department-wide data in a chart below, and you can sort it by median compensation, number of employees, average compensation and by the departments’ share of the $1.7 billion in payouts covered by the data. [Don’t see a chart? Click here.]

This post is part of Dade Data, an online series from the Miami Herald’s County Hall team. Dade Data explores the numbers driving Miami-Dade County’s government and the challenges it faces.

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