Friday, October 31st, 2014

Carlos-O-Meter

Reduce the office of mayor by 10 percent


"I will immediately reduce the Office of the Mayor, currently budgeted at $7.3 million, by 10 percent in order to fill the $730,298 gap created by (Gov. Rick Scott's) veto."

Sources:

Gimenez campaign, "Carlos Gimenez puts seniors first"

Updates

Carlos Gimenez cut his office budget -- but he didn't backfill Gov. Rick Scott's veto

As part of his plan to save Miami-Dade County money while keeping alive a meal program for senior citizens, Carlos Gimenez promised to slash his own office's budget if elected mayor.

Gimenez made the promise on his campaign website June 1, 2011: "We are all disappointed by the recent veto of state funding for meal programs at two senior citizens' centers in Miami-Dade County. I know firsthand the good and important work these centers do and have steadfastly supported these programs. ... First, I will immediately reduce the Office of the Mayor, currently budgeted at $7.3 million, by 10 percent in order to fill the $730,298 gap created by the veto."

Note that's a two-part promise: that he would reduce the office of the mayor by 10 percent in order to fill a gap created by a veto for funding for senior meals programs.

On July 13 about two weeks after he won, Gimenez released his proposed budget. The executive summary showed the mayor's office shrinking from about $7.3 million to $5.9 million -- a 20 percent reduction, or double the 10 percent he promised. It also shows that his office's staff would shrink from 55 positions to 44. (The 11 positions being cut are vacant, according to county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie.)

At a meeting that started Sept. 22 and stretched into the next day, Miami-Dade county commissioners voted in favor of the budget. Trutie said that the $5.9 million budget remains the same as Gimenez's proposal.

Trutie said in a Sept. 23 interview that the office of the mayor currently has 43 workers -- including Gimenez.

That part of Gimenez's promise was kept. But it's more complicated to track the second part of his promise that he would use the money to fill a gap created by Gov. Rick Scott's budget veto.

On May 26, Scott vetoed money for two Miami-Dade organizations to serve meals to the elderly: $300,000 for Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Dade County and $430,298 for Allapattah Community Center Hot Meals Program. 

But that doesn't mean that the state erased all funding for those two organizations. Both programs received the same amount of money as the prior year -- what Scott vetoed was additional money.

"There wasn't a reduction in any (funding)," said Ashley Marshall, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. The Little Havana organization received about $125,480 for meal programs while Allapattah received about $361,543, according to the department's list of reoccurring allocations in the local services program on page 116.

Though there wasn't a reduction, Gimenez's promise was to fill-in the $730,000 Scott vetoed.

His office said he tried to fulfill the promise to cover the vetoed amount by proposing an $850,000 Seniors First Trust Fund, but the county commission, which approved the annual budget Sept. 23, voted to move that money back into the general fund. You can see the vote in this video of the budget meeting starting around the 9-hour, 20-minute mark. The Carlos-O-Meter has a separate promise by Gimenez to create that fund.

Trutie then pointed us to other parts of the budget, which provide money for senior meals: 

This document on page 338 lists money for seniors, the disabled and veterans and includes:

* $1,711,000 high risk elderly meals served at senior centers;
* $2,417,000 elderly meals at congregate dining;
* $487,000 meals on wheels delivered to isolated seniors.

In those three categories, the amount of funding remained either virtually the same or dropped slightly although the same number of seniors are expected to be served.

Trutie also pointed us to a separate budget document that shows how much money various community agencies will receive -- including some that provide meals to the elderly. That showed:

* Allapattah Community Action (The community center is the site where the meals are served -- Community Action is the corporation): $93,300 for senior meals congregate and home bound;

* Little Havana Activites and Nutrition Centers of Dade County: home delivered meals and congregate meals: About $406,938. 

Again, the money for both agencies is the same as last year.

(A note about our earlier update on this promise in July: We gave Gimenez an In the Works ratings after he announced his plan to reduce the Office of the Mayor. At the time, Trutie pointed us to a part of Gimenez's proposed budget about human services, which listed $656,000 to provide meals to an "additional 385 high-risk elders receiving in-home services." But when we interviewed Trutie about that item again on Oct. 7, she said that section of the budget was essentially a wish list of unmet needs and was never intended for this year's budget and wasn't funded.) 

Which brings us back to this promise update. Gimenez vowed to reduce the Office of the Mayor "by 10 percent in order to fill the $730,298 gap created by the veto." He has fulfilled the first half of his promise by reducing the office of the mayor. But Gimenez's budget does not replace the additional dollars for meal programs that were vetoed by Scott, although it continued funding of existing meal programs. Since Gimenez met half of his goal here, we rate this a Compromise. 

Sources:

Carlos Gimenez campaign website, "Carlos Gimenez puts seniors first," June 1, 2011

Mayor Carlos Gimenez, "Mayor's proposed 2011-12 budget executive summary," July 13, 2011

Mayor Carlos Gimenez, "Remarks for proposed fiscal year 2011-12 budget news conference," July 13, 2011

Miami-Dade county, County Commission minutes, Sept. 22-23, 2011

Miami-Dade County, List of Carlos Gimenez' hires in the Office of the Mayor, July 11, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott, 2011 Veto list, May 26, 2011

Florida Department of Elder Affairs, "Approved operating budget," 2011-12 

Miami Herald"Governor or Emperor?" June 2, 2011

South Florida Business Journal"Scott's veto hits South Florida projects," May 26, 2011

Interview, Suzy Trutie, Miami-Dade county spokeswoman, Sept. 23-Oct. 7, 2011

Interview, Miriam Urra, Executive Director of Allapattah Community Action, Sept. 30, 2011

Interview, Ashley Marshall, spokeswoman Florida Department, Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 2011

Gimenez actually has proposed deeper cuts

In the final weeks of his campaign for Miami-Dade mayor in 2011, Carlos Gimenez promised if elected he would reduce the budget of the office of the mayor by 10 percent. And he said he knew exactly what he'd do with the extra money.

Gimenez said he would use the savings to fill a funding gap for meals programs for seniors. The gap was created by Gov. Rick Scott's veto of $300,000 for Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Dade County and $430,298 for DeAllapattah Community Center Hot Meals Program.

Gimenez made the promise on his campaign website June 1:

"We are all disappointed by the recent veto of state funding for meal programs at two Senior Citizens' centers in Miami-Dade County. I know firsthand the good and important work these centers do and have steadfastly supported these programs. ... First, I will immediately reduce the Office of the Mayor, currently budgeted at $7.3 million, by 10 percent in order to fill the $730,298 gap created by the veto."

Here, we're evaluating Gimenez's two-part combined promise: that he would reduce the office of the mayor by 10 percent in order to fill a gap created by a veto for funding for a senior meals program.

On July 13, Gimenez released his proposed budget for the next fiscal year which starts Oct. 1.

Gimenez's proposed budget executive summary shows the mayor's office shrinking from about $7.3 million to $5.9 million -- a 20 percent reduction, or double the 10 percent he promised. It also shows that his office's staff would shrink from 55 positions to 44. (The 11 positions being cut are currently vacant, according to county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie.)

Let's take a look at how the number of employees in the Office of the Mayor has changed in recent months based on information we received from Trutie.

For the current fiscal year which started Oct. 1, 2010, the Office of the Mayor was budgeted at 55 positions. After Alvarez was recalled in March, 32 people left the office -- some went to other departments while others quit or retired. That left 23 employees in the Office of the Mayor when Gimenez won June 28.

Gimenez then hired 12 people in the office of the mayor. The chart of hires the county sent us shows 13 hires in the office of the mayor, but that includes Gimenez himself. (Of the 12, the county considered five new hires and the rest transferred from Gimenez's county commission office -- he resigned in April to run for mayor. Although the chart is dated July 11, Trutie said it was still accurate as of July 26.)

So that brings us to about 36 employees in the office of the mayor. New hires are only listed on the chart if they have been officially hired -- which means they filled out paperwork and passed a background check. The county has offered jobs in the Office of the Mayor to a few other individuals who haven't started yet, including Genaro "Chip” Iglesias, who will begin in September as deputy mayor and chief of staff and earn $225,000, and two deputy mayors who have accepted jobs but are pending background checks: Ed Marquez, who will earn $267,000, and Jack Osterholt, who will make $250,000. Lisa Martinez was also offered a senior adviser job paying $130,000. So once those four start, there will be about 40 people in the office of the mayor. That means Gimenez can make a few more hires and stay within his proposed number of 44 employees.

And since more people are in the process of being hired, or could be hired, it seems reasonable to us that the budget for the mayor's office could grow. Trutie said that even with the 44 positions the entire Office of the Mayor will stay within the $5.875 million. We'll be checking on that.

(Update: After our promise update posted on July 28, county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie sent us an updated roster of new hires in the mayor's office. That update shows that Osterholt and Martinez were added to the list which means they passed their background check. The new chart also shows one other person not previously listed: John Heffernan, press secretary, earning $75,000 a year. That brings the current number of employees in the office of the mayor to about 39 and it is expected to grow by a couple more.)

Now, as for Gimenez's promise that the saving will go to senior meals programs. Trutie directed us to part of Gimenez's proposed budget about human services, which listed $656,000 to provide meals to an "additional 385 high-risk elders receiving in-home services." After speaking with county staff, Trutie said the word "additional" was an error and that the money would go toward existing clients, not new ones.

Trutie told us that the money would go toward the senior meal programs that were vetoed. Note that $656,000 is about $74,298 short of the veto amount.

"I know we are going to try to identify funds so there won't be a gap," Trutie said in a telephone interview July 20. Gimenez "pledged to fund senior meal programs at 100 percent."

To recap: On July 19, the county commission approved the tax rate but they have until Sept. 22 to take a final vote on the budget, which includes the amount for the Office of the Mayor. Gimenez inherited an office that was budgeted for 55 people but only had 23 employees -- so he didn't have to do much to achieve savings other than not fill all the positions. As of July 26 his office had 36 people including himself and is expected to reach about 40 soon. So far, he remains below the 44 positions he has asked the county to budget and his proposal reduces the dollars for his office by 20 percent.

As part of his promise to reduce his office's budget, Gimenez said he would put those savings toward meals programs for seniors -- specifically to fill a state gap from a veto of $730,298. Gimenez has proposed $656,000 for senior meal programs -- and his spokeswoman said he is committed to finding an additional $74,298 to make the programs whole.

For us, we still need to see if Gimenez directs additional dollars to completely fill the gap created by the veto, how many more hires he makes and what he pays those new hires in the next few months. The county commission must also approve his budget. While there's work left to do, it's clear this promise is In the Works.

Sources:

Carlos Gimenez campaign website, "Carlos Gimenez puts seniors first," June 1, 2011

Mayor Carlos Gimenez, "Mayor's proposed 2011-12 budget executive summary," July 13, 2011

Mayor Carlos Gimenez, "Remarks for proposed fiscal year 2011-12 budget news conference," July 13, 2011

Miami-Dade County, List of Carlos Gimenez' hires in the Office of the Mayor, July 11, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott, 2011 Veto list, May 26, 2011

Interview, Suzy Trutie, Miami-Dade county spokeswoman, July 19-28, 2011