After lengthy wrangling, Miami city commissioners voted Thursday night to dip into the city’s reserves and pass a budget that will provide the city with nearly 100 new police officers.
"We got a budget. We have 95 officers that will be new to us,” Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff said. “Forty were already (budgeted), but 60 will come on that will be extra. The police will get, I think, a substantial pay increase.”
Police Chief Manuel Orosa said and the commissioners expect that 25 new officers will be on the streets by Christmas. Sixty should be hired by mid-March.
Commissioners approved a 2014 budget that totals $523 million. But funding for police was the big issue as commissioners hashed out the budget Thursday.
“We have an unacceptable level of crime here in the city of Miami,” Coconut Grove resident Fernand Amandi said outside the commission chambers. “It’s a citywide problem, and at the heart of it is a lack of sufficient police officers for the city.”
The city has been short a hundred cops, critics say. And its police are some of the poorest paid in the state. The Fraternal Order of Police has even run commercials detailing poor pay and less than desirable benefits. The union and city government have been battling over benefits that officers have lost in recent years.
But at City Hall Thursday night, there was talk of some wiggle room.
"I think the most practical solution is to, everybody get a little piece of the pie and hire a few more officers and give some benefits back,” Orosa said.
Commissioners have wrestled with flat tax revenues and have not increased taxes.
“We can’t promise to all of a sudden in a week return all benefits that have been cut,” Mayor Tomas Regalado said.
But, he said, “One thing is for sure – that police officers in the city of Miami are going to get raises next year.”
The city will begin negotiations with the police union about salaries and benefits Friday at 2 p.m.
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