Saturday, August 11, 2012

‘Financial urgency’ a useful tool

Miami’s ‘financial urgency’ draws criticism - Miami Beach - The best definition of urgency comes from the state Public Employees Relations Commission, which serves as the appeals board for labor disputes. But even that language is murky, calling it “a financial condition calling for immediate attention and demanding prompt and decisive action.” . . . Though challenging to define, urgency is easy to declare. The chief executive of a city or school district can do so without the consent of the legislative body involved, for example a city commission or school board. The CEO then has two weeks to negotiate with the labor unions. If no agreement is reached, the legislative body can unilaterally approve changes to employee contracts. Statewide, the provision has only been used a handful of times. Although the financial urgency statute became law in 1995 as a way to expedite negotiations in financial crises, it was seldom used until the economy tanked in 2008.In 2009, when the Pembroke Pines municipal charter-school system was facing a $2.1 million budget shortfall, the city used the measure to renegotiate its contract with the Broward Teachers Union. Pines commissioners invoked the statute a second time to make changes to the pension plan. Neighboring Hollywood has declared thrice financial urgency. Most recently, city leaders in 2011 relied on the law to slash police and firefighter salaries by 12.5 percent and general employee salaries by 7.5 percent to cover an unexpected budget hole. Miami has also been a repeat user of the statute. The city first declared financial urgency to help alleviate a $116 million budget deficit in 2010. Commissioners went on to cut more than $80 million out of union contracts by imposing pay cuts, eliminating perks and scaling back pension benefits. The actions took effect after three of the four union contracts had expired, and lasted one year. . . . "

"Financial urgency"--sounds like a tool every state, county and city in the US needs to have.


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