The city of Miami says it has surprisingly uncovered tens of millions of dollars in surplus in its budget, leaving commissioners and union officials critical of finance officials.
At a city meeting Thursday, Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones demanded to know what went awry with budget projections.
"There's no excused for what just happened," she said, adding that the budgeting surprise was a sign of "disrespect."
Initial reports estimated the budget surplus at $45 million, but City Budget Director Danny Alfonso said the figure was more like $37 million to $40 million. The surplus resulted from finance officials’ conservativeness with projections, Alfonso said. “Again, I take full responsibility that we were very conservative with our numbers,” Alfonso said.
Earlier this year, the city had declared itself in a state of “financial urgency,” aiming to get concessions from union workers, such as police officers.
Thursday, Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Javier Ortiz remarked to commissioners: “Financial urgency? Oops! Just kidding.”
Ortiz asked commissioners to reopen contract negotiations with the union and to return money back to the police department. “We could have hired more officers by now if we knew we had more money,” Ortiz said.
Fraternal Order of Police President Armando Aguilar added, “My opinion is that this was a well-organized scam just to get more from the unions.”
City Manager Johnny Martinez said the administration “takes full responsibility for managing the expectations of this commission.”
He said with budget projections, “there was no dishonesty involved here, no plot. Maybe we’re not at our best in our predictions, but we believed what we were doing. There was no intent to defraud or mislead anybody.”