September 12, 2018

KEY LARGO — The average gross salary for a Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District’s staffer is about $42,805 among the 26 hourly employees, according to figures released during last week’s meeting.

This year’s average gross salary for its six managers is nearly double that, at $81,024. With board commissioners increasing its cost-of-living pay adjustment from 3 to 4.2 percent — which is double what Monroe County approved — that average managerial salary will be bumped to $84,427 at minimum. Staff can also earn merit and time and service raises.

After approving the 2018-19 budgeted staffing plan for all 32 employees with a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment at their Aug. 21 meeting, commissioners last week approved increasing it to 4.2 percent, which is Miami-Dade’s adjustment. The higher rate was approved with a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Robby Majeska and Andy Tobin opposing.

Tobin questioned why the additional increase was being considered. Commissioner Sue Heim made the motion to accept it.

“At the last meeting, the board approved as reflected in the minutes, the 3 percent level. That’s what is included in the preliminary budget,” he said. “It’s never been the district’s policy to give an automatic cost-of-living raise.”

He provided copies of the district’s Resolution 03-01-09, which states that any increase or combination of increases of more than 3 percent must be approved by the board.

He said such increases quickly compound.

“I question this 4.2 [Consumer Price Index] and the biggest increase in Miami-Dade and Broward counties is medical, but since the district pays 100 percent, I don’t see how it’s relevant,” Tobin said.

Commissioner Steve Gibbs said he was almost sure it costs more to live in Monroe County than Miami-Dade or Broward.

Referring to a “basket of consumables, that the CPI is based on,” Tobin said aside from health and rent, the increase is really at about 2 percent.

“We need to do our best to keep our costs down and operate like a business,” Tobin said. “We charged homeowners to rip up their yard and put the sewer in.”

He called for automatic increases to end.

“We never had an automatic involved,” Tobin said. “My problem isn’t with the 3 percent or 4.2 percent, it’s the automatic, which may become policy.”

Majeska said he’d rather see staff be given raises based only on performance and merit, rather than cost of living.

“In the last two years’ gross pay, the first person got about $10,000 more, the second person got about $8,000. These are big raises,” he said, pointing to a list of salaries with employee names redacted. “We even have employees that made more than $10,000 in raises. The way I work, the manager decides who gets raises, not because the Consumer Price Index says to do that.”

He said a potential fallout of issuing automatic raises could be that General Manager Peter Rosasco may lose the ability to motivate employees with pay increases.

Chairman Asdourian, however, had qualms about rewarding employees for good work.

“I have a hard time with the fact that the GM makes the decision to give people higher merit raises. This turns employees against each other,” he said.

Since 2013, the six management salaries have grown 20, 40, 25, 99, 65 and 95 percent respectively, edging some closer toward six figures.

Rosasco said some of those increases reflect a merging of positions, realigning duties and overtime.

“The CPI will go across the board at 4.2, which goes into effect the first of October. The promotion raises will come quarterly and the time and service is annually on the date of hire,” Rosasco about his approach to giving raises.

The district has $2,542,596 proposed for payroll, benefits and overtime for next year.

The next Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 103355 Overseas Highway. A copy of the agenda can be found at klwtd.org prior to the meeting.

tjava@keysnews.com