Miami Beach employees making more than $50,000 a year will be required to take five furlough days between now and the end of the fiscal year, another measure to help close a “likely” $87 million budget gap due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
While the City already furloughed 29 full-time employees, 208 part-time, and 64 temporary employees potentially through the end of the fiscal year on September 30, members of the Commission’s Finance and Economic Resiliency Committee asked the Administration for deeper cuts to include more management level employees so that the burden did not end up disproportionately affecting lower level workers. This week, City CFO John Woodruff said an additional 20 full-time employees were identified for furloughs, including an additional two senior managers in the Parking Department. In total, 10 managers are included in the full-time furloughs.
In addition to the four charter officers – City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk, and Inspector General – taking 10 furlough days, each of their staffs will take five days.
The additional savings from the new cuts is about $1.9 million, meaning the City can use less of its reserves. “We’re hoping the cumulative effect will limit use of the General Fund reserves from $8.6 to much closer to $5 to 6 million,” Woodruff said.
As the City considers its gradual reopening plan starting with the parks, Woodruff said some of the part-time furloughed employees including Park Rangers and Parks Department personnel will be called back to enforce social distancing measures. He noted those positions may be eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
The furloughs are intended to be “for the duration [of the fiscal year] but in individual cases we maybe need to bring people back, if the economy opens and there’s demand for their services,” Woodruff told the Committee.
City Manager Jimmy Morales noted the City will pay health insurance costs for furloughed employees including individual and family fees and cover co-payments as well through the end of the fiscal year. Committee members said they wanted to formalize that at the next full Commission meeting to ensure the benefits are covered.
Commissioner Michael Góngora said, “It’s important to me that we confirm that those that have been furloughed are first in line to get their jobs back… it’s important to me that they have some right to get their jobs back over somebody else.”
Morales said the City wants to “keep the furloughed employees engaged with the City,” reiterating Woodruff’s comments that part-time employees working in the City's parks would be coming back soon and “At some point, we’re going to need the parking [employees].”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian was satisfied with the additional cuts. “I think the Administration has done a very good job with a tough hand.”
During the previous discussion on closing this year’s budget gap, Commissioner David Richardson pushed for cuts at the senior management level. The additional reductions, he said, put management positions at 20% of the overall furloughs when the overall percentage of managers in City government is 10 to 12% of total employment. He was satisfied with more of the burden proportionally being shouldered by top level staff.
Richardson also set an aspirational goal of depleting the City’s reserves by just $5 million. After hearing Woodruff’s latest estimates, he said, “If we can get this fiscal year down to only have to plug a $5 or 6 million hole, I think that would be a miraculous feat. I’m worried about next year… some of the sectors of our economy may be slow to come back. Next year, we may have to dig even more into our reserves.”
To date, the Administration has focused on closing this year’s budget gap but in the next couple of weeks will turn to FY 2021 planning. Some cuts may need to become permanent, Woodruff said, as the City expects to continue to have revenue impacts from COVID-19. But, he said, there's still uncertainty as to what the real impact and needs will be. “We didn’t want to do kneejerk cuts that a month or two from now we wished we hadn’t done that if we had better information.”
“We will definitely have to take action in reorganizing departments and reductions,” he said. “We will be proactively working on that over the next few weeks” in time for the May-June-July Commission budget workshops.
Committee Chair, Commissioner Ricky Arriola, noting what may be the “new normal” post-COVID-19, urged Morales to talk with employees and “let them know if this might be something permanent. Take the opportunity to give people clear direction about what their future might look like in the months and years ahead.”
Mayor Dan Gelber said, “The purpose of this process has really been to steady the boat in a very tumultuous moment.” He urged Commissioners to let the budget process happen before making systemic changes. “If there are impulses to make changes across the board, I would resist that,” suggesting waiting “a month or two” as the financial picture becomes a little more clear and the FY 2021 budget planning process gets underway in earnest.
The Finance Committee will meet again next week to review updates.
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