|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