One might say greed is alive and well here in our Island City. Recent pay increases for our elected officials topped 200%, while some of the lowest-paid city staff cannot keep up with the ever-growing cost of living here in South Florida.
To make matters worse, now that our elected officials have voted to enrich themselves, they are now looking to enrich our City Manager with a $30,000.00 raise in salary. Talk about a slap in the face for those frontline workers whose annual salary is just about $30,000.00.
A recent Compensation Study was supposed to address turnover rates of city staff. I cannot think of one Department Head or anyone in city management that has left this city for a better-paying job somewhere else. But low paid police officers and city workers have to leave, to be able to afford the cost of living here in South Florida. Although recent pay increases coming out of the Compensation Study is a step in the right direction, however due to rising inflation, does very little to solve the problem of affordable living and a proper working wage. A systemic change needs to take place that stops compensating those who are already paid plenty and begins to justly compensate the hard-working people that make life here in the Island City better for us all.
Starting salary for a WM Police Officer is $54,000.00, for a Park Ranger is $37,000.00, for a Utility Worker $31,500.00, Administrative Assistant $37,000.00. A recent study stated that two working adults with one child both need to earn at least $18.57/hour just to get by here in South Florida. If you’re a single mom with one child you would need to earn at least $33.90 per hour. So while our Mayor, City Commissioners, City Manager and Department Heads pat themselves on the back for being so benevolent towards our hard-working city staff, there is still an enormous gap between $15 per hour to $18.57 and even higher to $33 per hour needed to cloth, feed, house, and live with a family here in South Florida. No 200% pay increases for them, no $30,000.00 a year increase in salary.
Executive pay has increased easily by 18 to 20%, while the average workers have seen only a mere 4% increase. A quarter of a million dollars in compensation for the City Manager – but not enough money to pay Park Rangers or Utility workers enough to raise a family and live a decent life here in South Florida.
The main talking point that many used to justify this executive enrichment was that we need to be competitive with surrounding cities. So if the surrounding cities are equally guilty of enriching those at the top of the salary ranges, we should rush to do the same? While we are comparing salaries to other cities, we must also look at other factors. Fort Lauderdale has a population of 186,000 with a city workforce of 1,800 full-time employees, Coral Springs population of 133,000, Pompano population of 111,000, and then Wilton Manors with a population of 12,500 and a city staff of about 113 full-time and 46 part-time workers. Should we equally compare a city with a population 10 times the size with a much larger workforce to our Island City? I think not.
Sadly, the only City Commissioner that raised any objection to this executive enrichment is the outgoing Gary Resnick. Hard for me to say, but we might just miss having Commissioner Resnick on the dais when it comes to the very important matters of the city budget process. In the recent Town Crier Commissioner Resnick had this to say: “Generally, people don’t run for office because of salary and benefits; it’s not good government when people seek office because of money. Is a 200% or higher increase warranted? More importantly, is this in the best interest of residents and businesses?”
Resnick’s comments say it all. In past elections our city has seen no shortage of people looking to serve on our City Commission, none of who were doing it for the money, although some might have been looking for the health care benefits that go with the job or to help with their personal careers. I, like many, ran for office to make a difference in our community, a sense of public service, and to change our Island City for the better, but definitely not for the money. Times have certainly changed; unfortunately not for the better, unless you’re a City Manager, the Mayor or a City Commissioner.
Having been guilty myself of watching from a distance as our city officials went about dipping into the till I was a bit surprised that more voices did not speak out against such craziness of 200% raises and more. Thankfully some in our community spoke up for our police officers and our city’s low-paid workers and I applaud their efforts. Speaking out for what you believe will always make life here in our Island City just a whole lot better.
Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.