HIALEAH (CBS4)- Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez will cut his pay and benefits by 30 percent and wants to make the deal permanent.
Hernandez’ proposal comes as budget season fast approaches, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald. The county’s second largest city is grappling with years of falling revenue and 17-percent unemployment rate.
“There are a lot of professional politicians. This shouldn’t be a profession,” Hernandez said in an interview with the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. “It should be about serving the public and not what your benefits and retirement are,” he added.
The new salary and expense package for Hialeah’s mayor: $190,000 a year. That would be the lowest total pay in a decade and a 30-percent drop from the 2010-2011 budget. That gave Hialeah’s mayor and day-to-day administrator $271,883 in salary, expenses and a travel/per diem account. In 2001, Raul Martinez drew $190,418 in total. By 2005, the figure rose to $251,010 and continued to creep up, The Herald pointed out.
Hernandez said he will put the issue before voters as a charter amendment in the city’s November elections — when Hernandez himself will try to keep the mayor’s seat in a crowded field.
If voters approve the initiative, the charter would dictate the mayor’s pay — $150,000 in salary and $40,000 in annual expenses. Any change would need voter approval. “I am a public servant and the citizens should be the ones who choose if the mayor should get a pay raise or not,” Hernandez explained.
Earlier this year, a taxpayer-financed BMW and $300,000-plus in pay and benefits helped fuel his ouster of former County Mayor Carlos Alvarez..
In the race for a new county mayor, public benefits became an issue. Political groups and the candidates, Carlos Gimenez and Julio Robaina, tried to link each other to the ousted mayor. A robocall blasted Robaina for his high salary.
Hernandez, a former Hialeah police officer, took over as Hialeah’s strong mayor in May when Robaina resigned to run an unsuccessful bid for the county mayor’s job. Last fall, Robaina gave back 7 percent of his base salary to offset the city’s insurance costs, as a form of salary reduction. The cut to his total compensation: 4 percent.
Some Hialeah residents, including rival candidate and former mayor Martinez, disagreed with making a charter amendment. “I don’t have any problem with capping the salary. But why tinker with the charter?,” Martinez said.
Similarly, union president Barbara Hernandez said the council can make any change to the mayor’s salary — without a potentially costly and time-consuming charter change.
The acting mayor said he will present a preliminary budget next week for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, when Hialeah must close a shortfall of at least $5 million.
The union leader Hernandez said that if there are no financial problems in Hialeah — as the latest audited financial report of the city indicated — then the city should give back some wages to general employees, who took a 17-percent cut to their base salary in March.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)