Should Miami Beach Increase the annual compensation of the Mayor and City Commissioners?

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Should Miami Beach Increase the annual compensation of the Mayor and City Commissioners?:

After narrowly losing last summer, measure is back again

A ballot question to increase the compensation for the mayor and City commissioners is back after being narrowly defeated last summer. This year’s question is almost the same with one exception – when it would apply. The previous attempt would have applied to the current commission. This time, if the question passes, it will not go into effect until 2021. 
The last time there was a pay increase for the mayor and commissioners was in 1966. The compensation numbers in the question being considered by voters reflect the annual increase in the cost of living using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) since 1966. 
Proponents say increasing the compensation will open up the talent pool, encouraging more people to run for office. As we did with the ballot question last August, we take a detailed look at the overall compensation package for elected officials and how this question impacts that.
Ballot question #2: Since 1966, the City Charter has established a $6,000 annual compensation for each City Commissioner and a $10,000 annual compensation for the Mayor. Effective with the City’s November 2021 General Election, should Charter Section 2.02 be amended to increase each Commissioner’s annual compensation to $45,381 and the Mayor’s annual compensation to $75,636, said compensations to be increased annually based upon the Consumer Price Index, but not to exceed three percent per year?

Currently, the mayor receives an annual salary of $10,000 but the mayor also receives W-2 compensation in the form of an expense stipend ($2,000 per month) and a car allowance of $6,000 per year for a total of $40,00 annually. The reason those expense numbers are important is because retirement benefits are calculated (just like taxes) on the total compensation package. If a mayor serves for a minimum of five years, he or she is currently entitled to receive a monthly retirement benefit of $666.67 per month for life, starting at age 62.
If approved, the mayor’s annual salary would increase to $75,636. The expense stipend and car allowance would remain the same. New total annual pay number: $105,636 which translates to $1,760.60 per month in retirement benefits starting at age 62, provided a mayor served for a minimum of five years.
Commissioners currently receive an annual salary of $6,000 with an additional $33,000 in compensation ($2,250 a month in expenses and $6,000 car allowance) for total annual pay of $39,000. Current monthly pension at age 62 for commissioners who serve a minimum of five years is $650.
If approved, the annual salary for commissioners would increase to $45,381 plus the $33,000 in expenses and car allowance for total compensation of $78,381 annually. That would provide a monthly pension of $1,306.35 at age 62 for commissioners who serve a minimum of five years.
If a mayor or commissioner serve more than five years, the monthly pension number increases due to the increase in the multiplier number in the formula. Commissioners in Miami Beach have lifetime term limits of two four-year terms, not including time served as a result of having filled a vacancy so long as that time doesn’t exceed 50 percent of the filled term. Currently, the lifetime term limit for the mayor is three two-year terms but another item on the ballot asks if the mayor’s term should be changed. [See article about ballot question #1 to increase and change the mayor’s term.]
For example, a commissioner who served two terms would be eligible for a monthly pension of $2,090.16. A mayor would have to serve the maximum three two-year terms to be eligible for a pension. In that case, the monthly pension number would be $2,112.72. 
Note: Not included in the pension calculations is the proposed annual CPI increase.
Mayors and commissioners are also eligible to participate in the City’s health insurance program and receive one citywide parking permit for life.
Opponents say the positions are part-time with a full-time city manager and staff managing the city day-to-day and, therefore, the pay should remain at a part-time level. Within the Office of the Mayor and Commissioners, there is a chief of staff appointed by the mayor, an office manager, branding manager, public information specialist, an office associate, secretary, and receptionist. In addition, there is a full-time constituent aide for the mayor and each of the six commissioners.
Full-time city employees are eligible for pension and health benefits but part-time employees are not though those benefits are extended to the part-time elected officials. Many who are serving or have served as commissioners say that today’s requirements and expectations are more than part-time. They cite the number of commission meetings, committee meetings, and briefings as well as constituent expectations that commissioners be at various community meetings and always responsive to emails, phone calls, and text messages along with the pressures of the 24-hour cycle of social media outreach as examples that the job has become much bigger than it was in 1966 when the current compensation was set.
In July, when the Commission discussed placing the item on the ballot, the vote was 6-1 with Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioners Mark Samuelian, Joy Malakoff, John Alemán, Ricky Arriola, and Michael Góngora voting yes. Micky Steinberg voted no. 
The August 2018 vote was 5,552 to 5,018. 

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Susan Askew
Susan Askew
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Susan Askew
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