Miami Beach

Should commissioners get a pay raise? Six ballot questions for Miami Beach voters

Miami Beach voters will decide on six ballot questions when they head to the polls, including whether to give elected officials a pay raise.

Voters last year narrowly rejected a similar referendum that would have increased salaries for commissioners by $40,000 and by nearly $66,000 for the mayor. The proposal was defeated by a five-point margin.

But it’s back on the ballot, at commissioners’ request. Election Day is Nov. 5, and early voting runs through Nov. 3.

The only change is that the proposal wouldn’t take effect until 2021, to shield commissioners from the perception that they voted for their own raises.

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Miami Herald file

The city charter set salaries in 1966 at $6,000 and $10,000, respectively, for the commissioners and the mayor, but that does not include the monthly stipends and car allowances elected officials enjoy.

With all stipends and allowances taken into consideration, commissioners receive $39,000 a year, the city said. The mayor makes $40,000. Their pensions are dependent on the overall earnings, not what is set in the charter.

Referendum 2 cites the lower figure when asking voters if they want to raise the salaries. The referendum asks to increase the pay to $45,381 for commissioners and $75,636 for the mayor, the value of the 1966 salaries adjusted for the cost of living.

If approved, salaries in the future would be increased annually based on the Consumer Price Index, although not to exceed 3% a year.

Miami Beach Commissioner Micky Steinberg was the lone dissenting vote on the dais when the referendum was placed on the ballot.

“As I stated at the commission meeting, I agree people should be properly compensated for their work, but that this ballot question — no matter how well intended — needed to be ‘cooked more’ in terms of our monthly stipend and pension.”

Ricky Arriola MATIAS J. OCNER

Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who is running for re-election, said he supports the pay raise because being a commissioner is a “full-time job.”

“Sure it would be great if we could fully explain the cost of being a city commissioner, including the monthly stipend we receive (which is subject to tax),” he said in a statement. “But we are limited to 75 words on the ballot.”

The remaining ballot questions deal with mayoral term lengths and limits, processes for filling commission vacancies and density in development:

Referendum 1 would increase the mayor’s term from two years to four years, and change the mayor’s term limit from three two-year terms to two four-year terms.

Referendum 3 would establish procedures for the commission in the event of a resignation. Commissioners would be required to decide whether to appoint a new commissioner or schedule an election to replace the commissioner.

Referendum 4 would establish “Pride Park” as the name of the new park on the parking lot known as Convention Center Park/P-Lot.

Referendum 5 would authorize added density to the development of historic buildings for “adaptive reuse.”

Referendum 6 would add density to the development of office space along Washington Avenue and Alton Road.

A sample ballot can be found at the city of Miami Beach’s website under election information.

Martin Vassolo covers the politics and government of Miami Beach for the Miami Herald. He began working for the Herald in January 2018 after attending the University of Florida, where he served as the editor-in-chief of The Independent Florida Alligator. Previously, he was a general assignment reporter on the Herald’s metro desk and a political reporting intern.