Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez dropped his demand for union workers to take a 10 percent pay cut next year, and instead will seek savings by reducing benefits in employees’ healthcare plans.
In letters to labor leaders Tuesday night, Gimenez said the “benefits redesign” will be needed close a $64 million revenue gap for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. Gimenez plans to recommend closing that gap with about 700 job cuts on the county payroll if unions don’t agree to concessions, including extending the three-year suspension of various bonuses, perks and pay enhancements set to return Oct. 1.
“I am now seeking a commitment from you to collectively work together to achieve a 15 percent overall savings in healthcare costs through benefits redesign,’’ Gimenez wrote. The change, aides said, would reduce plans’ benefits but not require county workers to cover premium costs.
Emilio Azoy, president of the AFSCME chapter representing county water-and-sewer workers, said he saw Gimenez’s letter as another example of the mayor asking workers to solve the county’s financial problems.
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“What he’s offering is, to me, insulting,’’ Azoy said. “These benefits were negotiated. Now he’s saying he wants everything back. And I’m not going to give you anything.”
Miami-Dade’s budget office said the healthcare reductions would narrow the budget gap by about $18 million. The actual healthcare savings would total $50 million, but the budget gap only touches payrolls in those departments reliant on the county’s general fund — a roughly $1.5 billion pool of money made up mostly of countywide property taxes.
The Gimenez letter continues the trend of Miami-Dade’s improving budget projections. When his administration first began budget presentations in the spring, they projected a shortfall of $208 million. Thanks to preliminary cuts, deferred expenses, catching paperwork errors and stronger forecasts for revenues, the projected gap had narrowed to $75 million last week.
If unions agreed to the reduced healthcare benefits and extended concessions, Gimenez said he could close the gap without job cuts. The concessions include enhanced overtime pay, an extra $50 in each paycheck, and added compensation for working holidays. Called “snap-back” benefits because they’re slated to snap back on Oct. 1, Gimenez won the cuts shortly after taking office in 2011.