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Miami Beach Referendum 2: Mayor and Commissioner Salaries

This post is part of our voter guide for the Aug. 28 local and primary elections. Head to the main landing page for a guide to the key races and decisions being made this election.

If you live in Miami Beach, you also have two referenda that you’ll be voting on when you head to the polls on Aug. 28. Per usual, they’re pretty wonky and short on useful context, so we broke them down.

The second referendum will read like this:

Shall City Charter Section 2.02 be amended to change the annual compensation established in 1966, which has not been raised in 52 years, for the Mayor from $10,000 to $75,636, and for City Commissioners from $6,000 to $45,381; and also to authorize the City Commission, at a noticed public hearing, to allow an annual compensation increase based upon the Consumer Price Index, issued by U.S. Department of Labor, not to exceed three percent per year?

Yep, the Miami Beach mayor has been making only $10,000 a year for the last few decades, while city commissioners have been making only $6,000 (the same as county commissioners).

Yeah, our heads exploded a little bit too. This referendum is about giving them a big raise, roughly equivalent to the value of their 1966 salaries adjusted for cost of living.

Proponents of the raise say that it will actually open up politics to less wealthy candidates because only independently wealthy people can afford to take a $10,000 or $6,000 salary. The low salary also makes candidates more susceptible to special interests with deep pockets.

Why are the salaries so low, Whereby.Us chief business officer Chris Adamo asked? Well, it’s politically risky to ask voters to pay you more, especially a few years ago, when we were in a deep recession in Miami-Dade County. Earlier this year, Miami-Dade County commissioners decided against asking voters to give them a raise, and in 2012 a request was rejected by voters. (They also make only $6,000 a year.) 

To be fair, the salary is part of a larger compensation package. The Miami Beach mayor receives another $30,000 in fringe benefits (putting his current compensation at a total of $40,000), and commissioners get $24,000 in benefits (putting them at a total of $30,000 right now), plus contributions to their retirement. Those fringe benefits might include things like a transportation or phone allowance, which is basically part of their “salary” but not officially included in that number.

If you vote yes, you are approving a one-time pay increase, plus an annual cost-of-living increase of no more than 3 percent, for the mayor and commissioners.

If you vote no, you are voting for salaries to stay what they are.

This post is part of our voter guide for the Aug. 28 local and primary elections. Head to the main landing page for a guide to the key races and decisions being made this election.