Filled Miami-Dade budget gap puts holes in police, parks and planning
By Risa Polansky
Miami-Dade's fresh budget slashes are to be felt across the community, from private development to parks to police.
To fill a gap created by overspending on salaries with union contracts outstanding for almost half the fiscal year, the county is cutting expenditures totaling nearly $30 million, including eliminating 146 staff positions and an unnamed number of temporary and seasonal posts.
That means a hit to services.
Killing two planning positions from the Planning and Zoning Department means saving $121,000 but "reducing the [department's] ability to conduct population projections, economic, demographic, growth studies, long-range planning and initiatives in pursuit of the county's growth management goals," County Manager George Burgess wrote in a Feb. 25 memo.
Axing three code compliance positions, saving $130,000, means "delayed enforcement of overgrown lots, zoning, and public rights-of-way violations."
Parks maintenance is to take a hit, with 32 grounds and custodial positions on the chopping block, saving the county almost $1.35 million.
The county's property-tax subsidies for sports development, after-school programs and camps is no more the rest of this fiscal year, costing 15 positions but saving more than $1.72 million.
"Programs will continue to the extent they can be supported through fees and/or grants," Mr. Burgess wrote.
Losing eight positions in the Facilities Utilities Management Division of the county's General Services Administration "will force the deferral of facility maintenance and repairs into future years," the memo says, but save more than $2.27 million.
Reducing the county's 311 Answer Center's weekday hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. — translating to eight positions — means 129,000 unanswered calls and $415,000 saved, Mr. Burgess wrote.
And reducing an unnamed number of seasonal employees assigned to handle voters' and poll workers' calls "may increase the time required to prepare for an election," though it saves $160,000, he wrote.
On the police side, the county is to postpone hiring officers as positions become vacant this year and redeploy nine new-hire trainers to other areas, cutting overtime spending and operational costs to the tune of $6.64 million.
The Bootcamp Program is to be suspended, eliminating six civilian posts and transferring 45 sworn positions elsewhere, saving $1.825 million.
Inmates assigned to Bootcamp are to be moved to the general population of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.
Eight positions lost through folding the Department of Human Services' Homeless Assessment Referral and Tracking program "impacts the provision of substance abuse intervention, case management, follow-up and tracking of 160 homeless individuals currently involved in the corrections system and a total of 441 individuals that would be expected to be referred to the program annually," the manager's memo says.
On top of these staff and service cuts, the county is also reducing in-house expenses, including $6 million in "miscellaneous operating expenses" in areas such as the International Trade Consortium, the Office of the Clerk, Consumer Services, Elections, Legal Aid and others.
"Miscellaneous" means "maintenance mostly" and also includes supplies and the like, budget chief Jennifer Glazer-Moon clarified via e-mail Tuesday.
And this round of budget cuts may not be the last this fiscal year, Mr. Burgess said in his memo and again indirectly at a commission meeting Tuesday.
The memo warns that "unanticipated revenue changes throughout the budget… could still occur this fiscal year."
And at the meeting, the manager said also that Miami-Dade may be facing impasse with two of its unions — which would translate to more money lost as time passes.
The county has been reporting losing about $8 million every two-week pay period since Oct. 1 to paying last year's higher salaries with collective bargaining agreements outstanding.
Most by now have been resolved, including two police union contracts commissioners ratified Tuesday.
The progress has staunched budget hemorrhages considerably, but transit and water and sewer negotiations drag on.
Assuming all union contracts were settled by March 1, the county's overspending would have totaled $119.5 million. Now, the numbers keep rising.
The newly announced service, job and spending cuts take care of almost $30 million of the total.
Reserves and unbudgeted carryover money cover about $83.7 million, recaptured unspent community organization funding totals about $4.5 million and maximizing grants and delaying capital purchases covers $1.5 million.
It's unclear now how any new gaps would be filled.