Mayor Alvarez Answers about Taxes

I am reproducing the response I got from Miami-Dade County from my note questioning higher property taxes.  You will feel the emotion in the Mayor’s pronouncements about both the great sacrifices of county employees, the county’s apparent domination by its unions and the great work that county leaders have taken to fix the budget.

Dear  Mr. McGaughey:

Thank you for your e-mail.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation regarding the proposed Fiscal Year 2010-2011 budget and what has been accomplished following collective bargaining negotiations with the County’s 10 bargaining units.

Unprecedented union concessions have produced $224 million in taxpayer savings.  Employees saw a one-year freeze in merit pay, premium pay, flex pay, longevity bonuses and a 5 percent reduction to their pay which forever resets the base, and sets the stage for another round of collective bargaining which will begin soon.  The three-year contracts that were hammered out over many months do include a 3 percent cost of living adjustment in the last three months of a three year deal.

While an increase may appear unreasonable to some considering the economic climate, our process is a complex one.  Unionized employees make up about 90 percent of the County’s workforce.  Collective bargaining takes place between management and union leadership, but all agreements must then be approved or disapproved by our Board of County Commissioners (BCC).  In fact, one bargaining unit has still not reached an agreement with the administration, and the BCC has yet to impose terms.

Proposing measures that have no reasonable chance of moving forward is an exercise in futility.  I would rather bargain in good faith, realize real savings right now and open the door to continued negotiations which could produce even more wage and benefit concessions.

As for property taxes, Miami-Dade will collect almost $38 million less in property taxes than we did last fiscal year.  Direct services remain intact.  Not a single park, pool, library or fire station will close, and sworn police and firefighters will not be laid off.

However, layoffs, reassignments, and departmental consolidations are all part of the proposal.  About 1,200 positions are slated for elimination, 600 of which are filled.  That will bring the total workforce to a little more than 27,000 positions.  The last time the workforce was at this level of staffing was in the late 1990s.

Once a budget is approved, we will have closed more than $1 billion in budget gaps during the past four budget cycles.  Balancing a budget is never a simple task, but we have tried hard to provide you a framework that maintains the quality of life services our residents have come to expect.

Sincerely,

Carlos Alvarez

Mayor

Miami-Dade County

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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