Miami-Dade County

With payrolls slashed, some Miami-Dade departments fare better than others

Since becoming mayor in 2011, Carlos Gimenez has presided over a shrinking government workforce. Some payrolls have shrunk more than others.

Compared to the final budget before Gimenez took office, Miami-Dade employs about 7.5 percent fewer people now: 25,600 people versus 27,600 in 2011 under then-mayor Carlos Alvarez. That’s meant a $133 million decline in payroll costs to about $2.3 billion, a 5.5 percent drop, according to a review of county budget reports. Gimenez needed the payroll cuts to absorb a property-tax cut he pushed through during his first year in office.

Which departments took the biggest hits from the downsizing?

The chart above shows total personnel budget changes during the Gimenez administration for the 20 county departments and divisions with the highest payrolls this year.

Miami-Dade’s court system bucked the reduction trend and saw an 8 percent increase in its payroll budget, though that only amounted to an extra 15 positions. The biggest hit went to the county’s Community Action and Human Services agency, home to drug-treatment programs, Head Start, eldery assistance and family programs. It saw payroll shrink by $37 million in four years, a 47-percent drop that cost it almost 700 positions.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course.

In 2012, Miami-Dade transferred about 400 highly paid Head Start teachers to organizations that also participate in the federal program but pay their instructors far less. The move reduced payroll but allowed the other providers, including the school board, to receive Miami-Dade’s Head Start dollars and provide the early-education services to an additional 500 children, according to a 2012 county memo.

Gimenez lost a fight with county commissioners late last year over the mayor’s effort to continue a 5 percent healthcare contribution for most of the county’s employees. The extra healthcare costs added to a budget gap that the mayor said in a memo this week is still expected to top $200 million in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Without a tax increase, there’s a good chance the cuts outlined in this chart will get sharper in the months to come.

This is the first post for Dade Data, a new online series from The Miami Herald’s County Hall team. Dade Data will explore the numbers driving Miami-Dade County’s government and the challenges it faces.