Sunday, December 08, 2013

Xavier Suarez Takes a Look at Mayor Gimenez's Argument on the 5%. by Geniusofdespair

A grueling and contentious 12-hour hearing for seven county unions ended Thursday with an 8-3 vote in favor of returning the 5% to county employees.

County Commissioner Xavier Suarez Sounds Off with alternative cuts: 

Mayor Gimenez's previous op-ed piece on the looming union impasse sets the stage very nicely for a top-to-bottom analysis of the county's budget.

The mayor has correctly stated the quantitative variables of the budget equation we seek to solve; they are:
A. A constraint imposed by our own bosses (the taxpayers, playing the role of stockholders), who are not willing to pay more in taxes over what is already a very high millage rate which, in combination with other property taxes, takes more than 2% of the value of their homes every year. (Note that this tax burden increases automatically when their properties become more valuable because of inflation, improvements or the simple demographic effect of an increasing population.)

B. A level of basic services that cannot possibly be reduced, as it is already marginal in the areas of policing, mass transportation, animal services, libraries and fire-rescue.

C. Increasing costs of health care coverage for our 26,000 employees, which prompted the administration to reduce all salaries by 9% one year, later reduced to 5%. Returning the 5% health care cuts to the employees would require finding $27 million in budget reductions for the remaining three-quarters of the fiscal year, equivalent to $37 million on an annualized basis.

The mayor rightly takes pride in reducing the number of county departments to 25. But that is hardly serious streamlining, when you consider that the county has a host of agencies (Metropolitan Planning Organization, Ethics Commission, Internal Auditor, Office of Inspector General, Community Action Agency, Citizens Independent Transportation Trust, and the Public Health Trust are seven that come to mind) that are funded, in whole or in part, by the same budget that funds the basic county services.
The mayor also fails to mention that he created a total of five new deputy mayor positions. Which means that a meeting of the mayor and his directors and deputies requires a table with 30 chairs - and that does not include the seven agencies mentioned above, nor the county attorney, county clerk or property appraiser.

All of those directors, deputy mayors, heads of agencies, presidents, clerks and top attorneys make more than $100,000. And so do their assistant directors, assistant attorneys, fire chiefs and deputies. In fact, there are no less than 2,500 county employees that made over $100,000 in combined salary and overtime last year.

The most-used metric for determining whether an enterprise has an oversupply of supervisors is called the "span-of-control." It is the ratio that rank-and-file employees bear to supervisors. In the private sector, the span-of-control varies from about 7-1 to 10-1. In Miami-Dade County, the span of control stands at 4.9 to 1. In one department (fire) the number of supervisory personnel is less than 2 to 1. That same department has 70 employees with the title of "chief."

But salaries and managers are only part of the story. Here are some other metrics that illustrate the gargantuan, bloated-beyond-belief, astoundingly-out-of-control bureaucracy that is the county.
I. Salary Classifications. The county has 1040 different salary classifications for 26,000 employees. (Compare that to less than 30 "GS" categories for over three million federal employees and 18 salary classifications for 13,000 University of Miami employees.)

II. Properties Owned and Leased. The county has about 4,500 properties owned or leased. Just in major administrative buildings the county has 18 multi-story facilities, including one with 29 floors. Note that most of the basic county services, including police, fire-rescue, parks, public works, water and sewer, and mass transportation are done in the field and not indoors.

III. Automobiles and Light Vehicles. The county has more than 7,000 autos and light vehicles in its fleet - or almost one for every three employees. About half of those are take-home cars, which generate claims, lawsuits and other risk-management headaches for the county. (First responders such as patrol officers and emergency fire-rescue personnel comprise less than half of the take-home vehicles.)

IV. Expenditure Codes. This is probably the single most incredible figure. The county has no less than 33,000 expenditure codes. That is 7,000 more than the total number of employees, meaning that you could name 26,000 expenditures after each of the employees and still have 7,000 codes to name for expenses other than salaries.

The result of the above-described, massive bureaucracy is that it takes a lot of bookkeepers, administrators, computer experts, human resource and benefit managers, finance and budget specialists, labor lawyers, secretaries and clerical staff to forecast, confirm, calculate and otherwise keep track of the county's six billion dollar combined operating and capital budget. My task force report, presented to the commission chairman almost two years ago, details a total of $400 million in savings from serious streamlining of the outsized county bureaucracy; it included reducing the managerial ranks by 1,400 employees, reducing departments to 10, and capping salaries at $125,000.

That sort of streamlining (serious streamlining) is what the county needs, so that we can increase the number of employees who render the essential services: the libraries, police, fire-rescue, parks, public works, solid waste, public transportation, water and sewer, environmental and permitting functions, and pay them a decent wage.

When the county commission overruled the mayor and restored the 5% to the solid waste employees, the total cost of that ruling was $1.1 million for the entire department of 800 employees - or less than what the five deputy mayors make. The $27 million needed to do the same for the rest of the workforce (or $37 million annualized) is less than 1% of the county's operating budget.

That's not much to ask by way of streamlining. In fact, it would be only a small start to what needs to be done, if we are ever to control what has become one of the most top-heavy bureaucracies in the history of local governments.

Xavier L. Suarez
District 7


Anonymous said...

Here is a novel idea for Suarez:
Instead of giving his desired $37 million in management efficiencies to other employees who are already paid at rates far above the market, why not return it to the taxpayers, the people that pay the bills?

Why does he have so much contempt for the taxpayers?

Anonymous said...

Gimenez had no problem giving Juan Kuryla a massive $300,000County Director's salary, a 70% increase while the current Port Director remains in his job and while all other employees get cuts. Kuryla's background includes reassignment from his Public Works post to a remote field location because of improprieties, personal bankruptcy, coworker love affair leading to divorce, shady dealings with potential port vendors and clients resulting in Inspector General investigation, scheming to get PBSJ a port contract at the same time PB was being indicted for fraud, a fraudulent scheme with convict Hardemon for material hauling from the Port, wining and dining family and friends on the county credit card on foreign junkets, an embarrassing episode in Dubai on County business, inability to show up for work before 10am, aggressive behavior toward law enforcement at traffic stops and other unstable episodes. He is favored by this administration and commission because of his ability to cater to their needs, including numerous junkets to foreign locations using a $500,000port budget item. The 2014 Port budget also includes a $5 million item for payment in a legal judgment against the County for a judges ruling that the Port of Miami has a way of doling certain business permits illegally protecting incumbents -- ``creating a handful of entrenched privileged companies". The judge said evidence showed other ``established, qualified, competent and trustworthy,'' companies were denied permits even as some incumbents who didn't use their permits received automatic renewals. Kuryla works the backchannels and selection process, where privileged insiders are awarded business while those who are not tied into the system of lobbyists, commissioner aides and certain County staff are denied. Kuryla should be fired, not promoted. Divide his salary among honest employees. Stop the travel junkets for friends and family, save millions.

Anonymous said...

Xavier Suarez does not have contempt for the taxpayers! What article did you read?

Anonymous said...

Suarez's proposal will benefit all Miami-Dade residents. Unfortunately, the Commission has too many interests tied into the existing bloated bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

To the 1st Anon:
What the heck are you talking about? Did someone tell you to post that without even reading the article? Putz!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If there is enough money to give a 5% pay raise to the already overpaid employees, then give it to the taxpayers instead.

The overpaid employees don't need more money. Paying the employees an extra 5% does not help the residents of Miami-Dade in the least.

Suarez is just another lackey for the unions who does what he is told by union leadership.

Anonymous said...

Miami Dade County taxpayers are not paying for County services that are MARGINAL, so a refund of the taxes being paid for this is in order...

Anonymous said...

Thank you Commissioner Suarez for your detailed assessment. It makes more sense than having one mindset to cut from the entry level staff and leave the top heavy administrators. I wondered who the administrators give out orders when the ranks are shaved to the bone? Perhaps there should be a slight decrease in a director's pay each time an employee under their supervision is cut. Should a director continue to get a salary that compensated for 800 employees but now that the staff has been cut into half of that amount still be receiving the same salary?

Anonymous said...

Cudos for focusing on solutions rather than harping on the problems.

Anonymous said...

Cudos for focusing on solutions rather than harping on the problems.

Big Papi said...

So now Suarez is telling us how he thinks the county can now come up with $37 million annually that he voted to piss away on unnecessary employee raises.

Note to Commissioner Loco: You are supposed to be sure the money is available BEFORE you make expenditures, not suggest where to find it after you already spent it.

Anonymous said...

A lot of alternative solutions are provided in this blog, but few are actually ever taken and implemented.

Earl said...

I know how the county can save a billion dollars. They need to conduct a salary survey of every position. Miami-Dade employees are among the highest paid in the nation.

The survey needs to be conducted by a respected 3rd party with no ties to the county. Once we get the data, we can chop the salaries down to where they should be.

Cee said...

Doesn't Suarez realize that everything he has proposed in his memo falls under the authority of the county commission?

It's the commission that decides how many departments exist. The commission can also withdraw funding for any department at any time, including the mayor's office.

My guess is that Suarez is not interested in any of his proposed reforms or else he would begin enacting them in the form of county ordinances. I will know he is serious when I see him file the actual motions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cee,

Commissioner Suarez is 1 of 13 commissioners. Help him to carry these ideas forward by contacting the others opt hat sit in the dais to show support of these ideas (or others you may have.). A lack of public input allows skews the process in the favor of the lobbyists,

Anonymous said...

County employees are far from being paid the most... grouping together top administrative positions like the ones Commissioner Suarez identifies here along with entry level workers should be avoided st all costs! Its this overbloated administration that makes it look like all county employees are overpaid!

In regards to the 5%, THIS IS NOT A RAISE. this is not extra pay or more benefits. Its the return of a salary cut from a handful of years back taken when the economic hardships hhit the county. Its about damn time the employees get back their pay.

Thank you, Commissioner Suarez for taking a good analytical look at the county budget and recognizing the hard work of our front line service workers!

Anonymous said...

Suarez should have voted No on the 5% raise to County employees. How is the County going to make up the $37 Mil gap? $37 Mil on an annualized basis.

Geniusofdespair said...

It isn't a 5% raise and any more Loco I will be deleting. I am so tired of idiots focusing on lower paid staff. You are fools.

Anonymous said...

The average county-employed working stiff is not living high on the hog. Restoring the 5% (one of several recent reductions to employee pay) was the right thing to do, and will allow folks to spend, thus stimulating the economy. There are plenty of ways the county can streamline & save without turning its rank & file into the working poor.

Anonymous said...

People flee to Miami from countries with poorly paid civil servants led by a smaller number of corrupt and politically appointed leaders.

In large parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia you cannot run a business or it seems even take a deep breath without forking over large and small sums in bribes to a dizzying number of greedy functionaries.


Because government jobs in those countries pay so little that everyone steals and since everyone steals no one will report stealing by their comrades. It has been going on since colonial times and is considered normal.

In the U.S. most corruption is by elected officials and political appointees and not by rank-and-file civil servants.

Rank-and-file civil servants tend to humble and unambitious. Do confuse a lack of personal ambition with mediocrity. You can do great work every day but have no desire to become a great and powerful figure.

Needless to say, very few of these folks went into public service to get rich. They took these jobs to earn a secure, honest, living, enjoy a retirement free of worry and poverty and do work they can be proud of.

As a civil servant myself I know that I can lose my honor, my freedom, my job and even the pension I have already earned if I steal or take bribes. People in my department take pride in not accepting tips (though we politely express appreciation for the offer) and we take pride in being honest.

Even if my colleagues and I were not particularly honest, the cost/benefit analysis shows that avoiding corruption is the way to go.

For this reason you mainly see city and county politicians going to jail and not the long-suffering worker bees. We pay our politicians comparatively little in direct wages (usually less than their hand-picked staffs) then give them tremendous opportunities to steal and take bribes.

What do you think is going to happen when you create such a potent combination of motive and opportunity?

My feeling is you should be fairly paid but then if you steal...Go Directly to Jail. Don't pass go or collect your FRS Pension.

Yes, there are isolated cases where you find low-level, classified service employees being crooked. But these cases are rare and usually involve people who just downright stupid and can't see that their own economic interest rests in staying honest.

And whenever the rank-and-file do turn to corruption (think the NYPD in the 19th century or the City of Miami police in the early 1980's) it is generally due to the fact that they were paid comparatively poor wages when you factor in how dangerous or difficult their work was.

Miami is a place that has always imported the best Latin America and other parts of the world have to offer and worked hard to filter out the worst.

Let us leave the concept of having a mass of poorly paid and crook civil servants lorded over by lavishly paid satraps in those countries where such things have become customary.

We have our problems, and people can enjoy making fun of us after watching Cocaine Cowboys but I'll take Miami over Mexico City or Medellin any day and any time. And so would most residents of Mexico City or Medellin.

That's why so many of them are here and that's why we gladly welcome them here.

Anonymous said...

Juan Kuryla = Carmen Lunetta on crack

Anonymous said...

Nobody is attacking the workers making $50,000 per year or less. (Remember, it costs the taxpayers another $20,000+ in benefits for each employee making $50,000 per year and below). The problem is with County and City employees retiring with $1 Mil in "unused sick leave" and "unused vacation time" and a $165,000 per year pension. That is just galling to hard working private sector taxpayers who have NO pension plans.

Anonymous said...

"Nobody is attacking the workers making $50,000 per year or less."

Unfortunately, the comments do lump All county employees together. Read those comments above and throughout the Miami Herald.. People flippantly lump the entry level staff with the dept director.

Anonymous said...

It is the salaries of the top administrators in each and every department that need to be reviewed and in most cases, reduced. But they know this, and are retiring with bags of money. This is because they accrue sick leave and vacation leave and cash it in when they leave.

Anonymous said...

When will this policy of accruing leave be stopped?!

This does NOT exist in the private sector.

Vacation is meant to be taken periodically to refresh the body and mind. This should be mandated; if not used it should be lost.

Perez said...

Not too many Miami-Dade County employees make less than $50k annually. Even the secretaries make more than $50k. Whenever you hear a county employee claim they make less than $50k, go the mayor's webpage and look up the salary under the "Open Government" link. The whining county employee is almost always underreporting what he or she makes.

Anonymous said...

No one is whining but outsiders are inappropriately assessing the situation with few facts. The transparency report has retirees listed. The transparency report does not show a true salary with eight furlough days. The report does not show how much the five percent taken out brought the net down to, or the contribution to the state pension plan. The report does not show the loss of staff so that the position requires doing the work of two people, But, it's easy to be an anonymous judge of others.

Anonymous said...

I received this from Commissioner Zapata back in September:

Dear Neighbors,

Last night the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners approved a $6.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2013-2014. This is a 6.6% increase from last year's budget. I voted against it because I believe the annual budget is the most important policy statement we as a government make. Unfortunately this budget did not provide a vision for our future, did not invest in our infrastructure, does not provide clear policy directives, and does not establish clear priorities for our future. It also continues to under-invest in the unincorporated areas in our community.

The budget approved by my colleagues uses $10.2 million of your municipal property taxes for social services and Cultural Affairs grants that historically have been funded by Countywide taxes. The programs mostly benefit Miami Beach, City of Miami, and Coral Gables. I cannot support a budget that shortchanges our community and requires us to be double taxed for services that will benefit other communities.

We, the residents of unincorporated communities, such as West Kendall, East Kendall, West Dade, South Dade, Westchester and others, are forced to pay twice for services that historically have been paid Countywide.

In addition, this budget fails to provide transparency for our half a penny taxes. It will also put us in the hole for $20 million next year. I cannot support a budget that is not clear to my constituents, and I will continue to work with the administration to create transparency.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 305-375-5511 or look at the budget agenda by clicking HERE.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Juan C. Zapata
County Commissioner
District 11

Anonymous said...

The City of Miami recently had a secretary who was making $92,000 per year. She kept getting longevity pay increases. She was always doing the job any $28,000 per year assistant could do but at the City of Miami... stupidity reigns. Unions rule!

Anonymous said...

How about getting rid of the commissioners bloated staff and their inflated salaries! Then get rid of their slush funds and use the several million dollars saved to lower our taxes!

Anonymous said...

Xavier should have voted NO on the pro-union item. Show some balls, X. Put your money where your mouth is.

P said...

Commissioner Suarez may be 1 of 13 commissioners, but a single commissioner can make a motion. Where are his motions? Unless Suarez files to create an ordinance, I will believe he is all talk and no action.

Bigfoot said...

I see so many talk about the 2500 county employees that exceed $100,000; please take a moment and run the data query and notes 2500 county employees made less than $25,000!!!

There are just as many employees who are underpaid as there are over paid!

The 5% should have been budgeted by the mayor and the BCC, because the clause to return the 5% was in the Union "contract".

For the Mayor and the BCC not to account for it in the budget last Sept. was negligence on their part. They were fully aware of the contract and what each contract stated was to happen in January 2014, back in Sept. 2013!

Anonymous said...

There is no way Miami-Dade County has 2,500 full time employees making less than $25,000 per year. No way.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how in today's economy County employee's and their salaries are to blame for all of humanities problems...

A few years back when anyone in the private industry was making double or triple of what they make today no one even cared about County employees. We were the fools. Even though we are also residents and pay just as much in taxes or more than a person working for private industries.

If you look at the real numbers you will see that the average County employee who makes $50 (gross) pay 15% health insurance for a spouse and 2 kids. This is in addition to the 5% imposed by the mayor and commissioners to solve their missmanagement and lake of vision.

Also, a standard employee (non-special risk) will be able to get 48% (1.6% X 30 yrs) of there pay in retirement money after 30 years of work. This is a whoping 24K a year. I don't think that's too much for 30 years of service.

As far as the accumilation of leave an employee can accumilate up to 500 hrs of annual and 1000 of sick. Sick is prorated based on years of service. Again, you would have to work at least 30 years to receive 100% reimbursment. Yes, reimbursment... if an employee has accumilated this over a 30 year career it means he worked most of the time and didn't take off sick or annual leave days.

Can't wait until the economy gets back to normal when private industry is making money hand over fist and County employees are the fools again!!!

Anonymous said...

What you or I think doesn't mater. What maters are the numbers.