Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez took office in 2011 and promptly fulfilled a promise to slash the position’s compensation roughly in half: from about $325,000 to about $150,000.
After winning reelection in 2016 to his final four years as mayor, Gimenez is floating the possibility of getting a raise. In a memo to county commissioners Monday, Gimenez asked the board to establish a system for deciding how much the mayor should make.
In the memo, he notes how the county faced a budget crisis at the tail end of a national recession when he first took office and imposed the pay cut on himself. “I am proud how far we can come together,” Gimenez wrote commissioners. “We were able to award Cost of Living Adjustments to eligible employees last year, and we are in a position to be able to reward eligible employees with merit increases for a job well done.”
The memo does not request a raise, but the wording invites commissioners to offer one, and a spokesman said Gimenez isn’t opposed to earning more.
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“The mayor would accept an adjustment to his current salary,” Michael Hernández, Gimenez’s communications director, said in a statement. He said Gimenez is not seeking the car allowance, driver and security that he dropped after taking office in 2011.
Gimenez, 63, is slated to leave office in 2020 under the county’s term-limit rules.
In the Miami Herald’s latest ranking of the county’s top earners, Gimenez ranked No. 388, between a police sergeant and the director of Zoo Miami. As a longtime city of Miami employee, Gimenez already enjoyed a pension when he ran for mayor in 2011 and promised he would accept only half the money paid to then-mayor Carlos Alvarez, who was under fire for giving raises to top aides in the middle of a budget crisis.
Gimenez’s 2017 financial disclosure form shows he earned $150,791 from Miami-Dade County last year and $134,334 from his pension. A longtime paramedic and firefighter, Gimenez eventually became Miami’s fire chief and city manager. He also served as a county commissioner after leaving city employment. Gimenez’s wife, Lourdes, last year retired from her post as an administrator in the Miami-Dade school system.
In his memo, Gimenez said commissioners need to establish a system to “periodically” review the mayor’s compensation and that it would be “improper” for him to propose his own compensation package. Gimenez is the first mayor to serve without a county manager to run the day-to-day affairs of the government. Voters approved eliminating the position in 2012 as part of a broader restructuring that made the mayor the county’s chief administrative officer.
Alvarez was the first mayor to serve with those broad administrative duties. The former county police director earned just under $324,000 in his final year in office, including base pay of $233,000 and cash benefits that included a $7,200 yearly car allowance, a $42,000 expense account and $22,000 in deferred compensation.
He was recalled in 2011, opening the seat for Gimenez to win and finish out Alvarez’s term in 2012. After imposing a string of budget cuts and staff reductions in 2012 to help pay for rolling back an Alvarez tax hike, Gimenez presided over a county buoyed by a recovering economy. But a recent slowdown in sales-tax revenue took its toll on county revenues.
Gimenez extended a hiring freeze for the 2018 budget year, with some of the strain coming from higher payroll costs tied to raises in new union contracts adopted the prior year. He described writing this year’s $7.4 billion budget, which includes cuts to bus service, as “challenging” due to limited resources and some revenue gaps for transit and other services.
Still, the county’s finances are dramatically different from the crisis that faced Miami-Dade during the 2011 mayoral campaign, when a real estate crash kept tax revenues declining even after Alvarez won approval for higher property-tax rates. This year, property values again hit a record, and the 2018 budget that took effect Oct. 1 includes a 2 percent increase in spending over 2017 levels.
Hernández noted the changed circumstances. “Mayor Gimenez led by example during the most challenging fiscal period in modern Miami-Dade history,” he wrote, saying Gimenez’s pay cut saved taxpayers millions of dollars in compensation and benefits during the last six years. “He feels a process should be established to set his and his successors’ salary.”