Raises, Executive Benefits & More: Senior Staff Compensation Rises At Taxpayer Expense

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
[email protected]


When an individual chooses to work for government, they do it knowing that the compensation may well be inferior to a similar position in the private sector. The attractive points of government work are job security and a pension that provides a stipend for the rest of the individual’s life.

In 2017, then Coral Gables City Manager Cathy Swanson Rivenbark requested that a study be conducted comparing the compensation packages of City of Coral Gables’ senior level employees.

Executive Benefit Package Created

The study resulted in the creation of an “Executive Benefit Package,” without Commission consent, on October 12, 2017.

In a memo to executive level employees, Human Resources Director Karla Green states, that “the City is happy to introduce a new Executive Benefits Package. This is a comprehensive and competitive benefits package with many enhancements to your existing benefits. Your current benefits also provide for Term Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance equal to 1x annual salary (up to $200,000), Travel Accidental Death and Dismemberment policy with a $300,000 death benefit, 110 hours of sick leave yearly accruals and 13 paid holidays.”

Footing the bill, Coral Gables taxpayers.

The memo lists the 51 positions who will receive these benefits, but did not list the City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk, who Gables Insider has learned also enjoy the benefits, bringing the total number to 54 employees. The package has since been increased to include 57 positions.

Included In The Package

Among the benefits included are:

  • higher annual leave accrual rates,
  • raised annual leave cap,
  • raised number of annual hours employees can sell,
  • a new option to receive a cell phone stipend or employee may continue to have a City issued cell phone (monthly $20 fee still applicable),
  • two additional floating holidays,
  • Post Employment Health Plan (PEHP) City’s yearly contribution was raised to a higher amount, at retirement 100% of sick leave is rolled into PEHP on a pre-tax basis,
  • employees with funds in the excess sick bank and who meet retirement eligibility will have the option to cash out, if option is not elected by the employee, the funds will be transferred into PEHP account and any future sick leave balance over the cap at fiscal year-end, will automatically be deposited into the employee’s PEHP account,
  • tuition reimbursement will apply for accredited degree seeking courses and for job related professional certifications and/or professional job related certificate programs, [and]
  • a generous automobile allowance.”

The vehicle stipend comes in three tiers. : $324.85, $541.42 or $703.84 per month. All other benefits are calculated using the employee’s hourly wage.

Understanding what all this means to us would require understanding the base salary and benefits of each of the 57 recipients.

Breaking Down The Numbers

In order to better understand the impact of the Executive Benefits Package on residents, let’s use the example of the currently vacant position of Economic Development Director. The position’s salary for 2022-2023 will be $143,564.

The Executive Benefits Package would add the following: $6,497.04 for a vehicle stipend ($541.42 per month), $8,282.54 for unused leave days which the incumbent can sell back to the City for cash. This brings the salary to $158,343.58, an increase of $14,779.58 or 10.29% from the base salary.

According to Glassdoor, the average salary of an Economic Development Director in Florida is $109,770.

But the costs to taxpayers should also be calculated in the value of lost time. The additional leave time and floating holidays for this position at its base salary amount to $8,909.02 of free time during which no ones is performing the individual duties.

These calculations do not even factor in the additional health benefits and potential education reimbursements.

Annual Implications To Taxpayers

The annual implications across all positions are not pocket change.

  • Vehicle reimbursement: $217,650.12.
  • Unused leave time sold back to the City: $480,020.37.

These numbers are more than enough to perform renovations on at least one neighborhood park or fund additional necessary positions in the Fire Department, Code Enforcement Department and Community Recreation Department.

The value of the lost time adds up to:

  • Additional leave days: $112,925.14.
  • Additional floating holidays: $30,106.13.
  • Increased annual leave cap: $376,326.68.

All said, the cost of the Executive Benefits to taxpayers is approximately $1,217,028. This calculation does not factor in four eligible positions which were vacant at the time Gables Insider calculated or the health and education benefits.

It was higher, but the City removed the cell phone stipend after public records requests by residents and Gables Insider of staff cell phone records were difficult to produce due to personal content on their phones.

City Manager

In the 2022-2023 Budget, the Manager’s salary is rising from $267,694.00 to $286,318.00. He will receive a vehicle stipend of $8,446.08 and can sell back unused days at a cost to taxpayers of $16,518.35. His compensation with Executive Benefits was $291,431.64 this year, and will rise to $311,282.43.

Additional Income

Employees are also allowed to have outside employment. Seven of the recipients of these benefits had outside employment in 2021.

Using Congress as an example, employees in senior positions are not allowed to have outside employment. Only those in lower level positions can.

Here in Coral Gables, even an Assistant City Manager was allowed to have outside employment, as were the Zoning Director, Public Works Director, and Development Services Director. All recipients of Executive Benefits. Their outside employment was mainly as private consultants in their own fields.

Fire Fighters And Police

Coral Gables Fire Fighters have been fighting the City for a cost of living increase for several years. Rumors indicate that talks between both sides, which as protected by a cone of silence, have reached an impasse. This means Fire Fighters will once again receive no cost of living increase. However, the Fire Chief and Fire Division Chiefs who are all Executive Benefit recipients will receive pay increases of $22,977 and an average of $23,809 respectively, in addition to their executive benefits.

The Fire Chief’s salary was increased to $200,798. This is higher than the City of Hialeah’s Fire Chief, $199,359, even though Hialeah’s Fire Department has 258 employees while Coral Gables has just over half of that at 136.

The Chief of Police will see a raise of $19,360, bringing his salary to $229,857 before Executive Benefits. In comparison, the Chief of Police of Doral, which has a larger yet comparable population (Coral Gables 49,937 to Doral’s 62,367) will make $183,404. Coral Gables’ Police Chief also has outside employment as the University of Miami football team’s Security Director at home and on the road. CGPDs Majors will receive an average raise of $14,684.20.

Fire Department and Police Department Executive Benefit recipients do not receive a vehicle stipend, as they receive a take-home vehicle from the City.

New Study And Upcoming Raises

Gables Insider has learned that the City Manager has asked for a new study to be done to compare senior level salaries and benefits.

Salaries, however, are already approved to rise.

In the 2022-2023 budget approved by the Commission earlier this week, Executive Benefit level salaries rose by an average of 8.06%. Some rose over 30%. These numbers do not include the Executive Benefits, which rise at a similar rate as they are based on the individual salaries.

In the meantime, non-executive employees will receive a 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA). The Social Security Administration is expected to issue a COLA of 8.7% this coming year.

Executive Benefit Eligible Position Salary Comparison
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29 thoughts on “Raises, Executive Benefits & More: Senior Staff Compensation Rises At Taxpayer Expense

  1. The mechanics at motor pool all called out sick today, so there are no mechanics today. There is also a department that has one full time employee taking care of the entire city! Wow! This is a fact! Wow!

  2. I am demanding a massive refund on my city taxes! This waste in the Gables has multiplied out of control!!! How can it be terminated…

  3. I think before judgement is taken an explanation from our Commission is merited. Exhausted has point. We all live here because the City is well run and nothing is perfect.

  4. Being a Monday morning quarterback is great but when you have to be available 24/7 365 (no overtime pay) for your community as part of your job; that’s never included in the conversation. Trust me when I say its great to work 9 to 5 and go home and forget about work until the next day. The City is open 24 hours and as dedicated employees we are expected to respond. Get the whole story from all parties especially the one’s you are throwing to the sharks.

  5. a comment was made that Ariel Fernandez is both the editor of the Gables Insider and a candidate for commissioner. The comment implied Ariel Fernandez is biased. If biased, why did he print the negative comment about himself?

    The fact of the matter is anyone — a candidate, an elected official, even you, the critic— — can start a digital newsletter.

    So, it’s an even playing field, with the opportunity for anyone to get into the game. Your problem is you don’t like the player and his competition.

  6. Someone commented the excessive salaries were done “without commission approval”. Well, it’s the commissioners’ job to watch the City’s bank account, filled with funds from the taxpayers. The commissioners didn’t do their job. Their employees robbed the City’s bank account, when they were asleep on the job.

  7. Bureaucracy is a mutual benefit society. Bureaucrats look out for bureaucrats. It is their prime directive. Nothing new here. It is a worldwide, time honored system.

  8. And the city Refuses….Refuses to give the retirees a cost of living increase. Last one from 2012 only came about after a long and extended law suit
    They sure are busy covering their own asses
    A pox on their house!

  9. And the irony of all this, you cant get these people fired! They keep buying back their seat.

  10. The irony in all this is the blatant exploitation of workers at lower ranks. After deductions and forced pension contributions they’re practically below poverty line and barely making above minimum wage even with many years of service. They should be embarrassed, there is no shame, and no accountability. Managers dangle overtime like it’s a prize when it’s a necessity to survive at those low wages. Workers often work 16-20 hour days consecutively just to make ends meet and are expected to be grateful for the opportunity. A living wage, needs to be a human right. And worker safety a prioritized concern.

  11. Thank you for your deep dive analysis!
    “without Commission approval”😂😂😂

  12. Government executives are paid well so they can say no to bribes/ graft. So that there’s less temptation. We can raise the much needed money with no points, traffic, speeding / red light cameras. This doesn’t happen because the politicians pander to the scum/ chusma who own the streets. Shameful how Miami Mayor removed so many cameras in Miami & even the Gables cameras at the corner of Alhambra & Lejeune Rd. Lots of entitled people call in favors/ cry when they get tickets. Chief Hudak has said this openly. They say the poor can’t pay the fines; they have no heart for the maimed in car accidents. Don’t know why we tolerate people driving in downtown Gables while holding telephones. This is immoral & criminal! Shame on the Gables Politicians & Police who don’t care! I guess they identify with the chusma or are cowards who don’t want to rock the boat & lose their jobs with EXECUTIVE BENEFITS PACKAGE.

  13. When an individual chooses to work for government, they do it knowing that…

    Nonsense.

    Ppl complaining about other ppl salary is just whining.

    Those are not politicians and the salaries seems very competitive with the market,not even considering the 2 digits inflation we had.. and you didn’t get mad about the jobs where the pay was reduced.

  14. Lucy, what is your point? City of Miami budget is $2.5 BILLION. To put it into perspective, the City of Miami POLICE BUDGET is more than Coral Gables’ TOTAL BUDGET. Also, why are many of our directors from City of Miami if it’s so great over there? Maybe I’m misunderstanding your statement

  15. Breaking news from 2017.

    Those blaming commissioners should perhaps consider taking an adult literacy class at Coral Gables Elementary. Maybe then they’ll understand the phrase “without commission consent” in the third paragraph.

  16. Hopefully the commission will look into this and Gables residents will be offered the chance to see, debate and discuss any resulting report. Ariel, you are now a candidate, which readers should remember when reading your website.

    Government workers do get some benefits that private sector employees either don’t get at all or receive in lesser amounts. It is difficult to say what is reasonable or appropriate compensation.
    Compensation packages do need to be generous enough to attract employees.

    Commentators here frequently criticize the city as “corrupt,” employees as “lazy” and commissioners as “hacks.” There is often truth to those comments. Nonetheless, we need quality employees who can do their jobs competently and courteously. We all likely agree that city employees are entitled to appropriate compensation; there will always be disagreement over what that means.

    The commission should take this opportunity to restore residents’ faith and take a serious look at employee pay and benefits packages. Just as some employees are overpaid, I am sure others are underpaid. If the commission cannot handle the task, there is an election coming up in 2023.

  17. Do not like this? Then vote them all out one by one in our elections. I personally will not vote for one incumbent esp. the liar Menendez who was a sham in his promises. Elect those who will clean city hall starting with the city manager and attorney. $300 000 for a small city manager? Look what our US president is paid and then try to laugh at this joke.

  18. Salaries have always been public record and by comparison, City of Miami employees get paid more money than Coral Gables. Simple google search.

  19. The city manager, Peter Iglesias, is not worth $230,000.00 plus. Remember the mobility hub, Burger Bob’s.

    The city attorney, Miriam Ramos, is not worth $230,000.00 plus. She can’t write a legal contract. Remember the “wawa”: the judge said she wrote an ILLEGAL contract.

    The fire chief etc is not worth a big raise. When was the last time a big fire was in Coral Gables?

    The list goes on and on.

    We’re a bunch of wimps if we let it stand.

  20. This is outrageous! So the HR Director cuts the Assistant HR Director salary by $20,000 and then gives himself a $20,000????? City manager has to go. Out of touch with reality.

  21. That is the reason to continue the tradition of lies and corruption by electing Kevin Cabrera for County Commissioner—political outsider ??- lobbyist and co chair of the Trump Campaign 2022–wife is state representative- another political hack who will vote for his donor’s interests . Come on Kevin be an honest neighbor not another lying politician like Commissioner Menendez who pulled the same stunt during his campaign- good neighbor, son of single mom- all American con man who then voted with developers and sold us out. Only Coral Gables can continue to produce the best liars in Sourh Florida.

  22. The salaries are much, much more than the services rendered. If the Gables Insider did not expose it, it would still be in the dark.

    To put it bluntly, the Coral Gables taxpayer does not care if he/she is cheated. Has no guts to correct it. All talk, no action. Will allow it to continue. Gets what he/she deserves.

  23. Time to change our City’s name.

    No longer City Beautiful.

    Make it City Bountiful.

    Grotesque.

  24. There is no excuse for the high property taxes in Coral Gables.

    It is disgusting to see how the Commissioners have no sympathy for the taxpayers but only spend our tax money lavishly on kush salaries and benefits for the public workers. They are making far more than comparable private sector managerial positions.

  25. “When an individual chooses to work for government, they do it knowing that the compensation may well be inferior to a similar position in the private sector.” This is one of the biggest lies ever told. The reality is that many people in government, including executives, wou be paid less in the private sector. Government gives them the opportunity to not complete tasks, to delay projects, or be incompetent without ever missing a paycheck. There are also good folks, but most have no idea what the business world is like and would be fired in a short time.

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