Dade Commissioner Seijas Proposing A New Compensation And Benefits Review Committee
Written by Risa Polansky on August 27, 2009
By Risa Polansky
To monitor Miami-Dade County employee compensation and benefits, a formal review committee could be in store.
In the heat of the county’s toughest budget season yet, and amid public criticism over executive raises, Commissioner Natacha Seijas is proposing a Compensation and Benefits Review Committee — but not because of recent events, she says.
The idea has long been percolating, Ms. Seijas said Tuesday.
"I was thinking for so many years we had never really looked at the pay plan," she said.
Understanding the impending economic crisis, Ms. Seijas said she got the ball rolling last year.
And as her proposed legislation came together, "all of a sudden we’re in the midst of all this that has been happening."
It’s not directly related, Ms. Seijas said, but it’s appropriate.
"I’m kind of glad I did it because I think we really, really need to look at everything."
If commissioners OK it, the committee would advise elected officials "on matters relating to the growth factors associated with personnel costs," says the proposed legislation, set for an initial vote Sept. 1.
The committee would "conduct a comprehensive study of all employee compensation policies and provide recommendations regarding salaries, wages and benefits."
It would consider the existing county pay structure, commitments in collective bargaining agreements, comparable employee compensation by area public and private employers, the county’s fiscal situation and ability to meet future personnel obligations, the need to attract and retain quality staff and difference in salaries between supervisors and their staffers, among other factors.
It’s too late for the proposed committee to act during this budget cycle.
"I wish," Ms. Seijas said, but her item requires a six-week review, and the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
But beginning next fiscal year, the committee would submit an annual report to the mayor and commissioners to recommend "the appropriate compensation policies for county employees," the proposed legislation says.
On top of that it would "periodically" advise elected leaders on compensation policies.
The proposed law now calls for the annual report in May, though Ms. Seijas said she’s considering moving the deadline to March after the inaugural report to help ensure it’s incorporated into the proposed budget, generally issued every June.
This year the mayor released his recommended budget in July.
It calls for a 5% pay cut across the board.
The new committee would provide background for perhaps making more strategic salary adjustments in the future — but it wouldn’t get personal, Ms. Seijas said.
"I don’t want to know people’s names. I want their titles and I want their job descriptions" to keep the process unbiased, she said.
She wants employees to know "we’re watching, but without being punitive, but being sure we run a good government."
Ms. Seijas said she envisions a committee of respected experts in the community.
The nine-member committee "should have a demonstrated expertise in human resources, organizational design, public management, or other related topics to be considered," her proposal says.
Ms. Seijas said her idea is that "the group of people we choose is people like economists or people with some big CPA firms, or people who have great knowledge of human resources."
A wise inclusion, she said, might be someone familiar with and respected by county unions — perhaps someone "with knowledge of law, knowledge of labor," she said.
To ensure the volunteer committee is met with respect, "I want to be kind of exclusive."
Members, who would serve three-year terms, would be appointed by commissioners based on a nominating council’s recommendations.
Three county commissioners, the chair of the county’s Social and Economic Development Council and one representative of a county collective bargaining union would sit on the nominating council.
Mayor Carlos Alvarez would appoint members and designate a chairman.
The committee would meet at least four times a year, the proposal says.
All meetings would be public.
Should Ms. Seijas’ item pass on first reading, it is to be heard by the Government Operations Committee Oct. 13.