Miami adopts hiring freeze across city departments to cut $25M after budget snafu

City Manager Arthur Noriega gives his remarks during a special commission meeting regarding the city’s budget at Miami City Hall on Monday, December 11, 2023.

Miami has frozen vacant jobs across the city’s 4,000-person workforce, including positions in the police, code compliance, and parks and recreation departments, in an effort to cut $25 million from this year’s budget — the consequence of a corruption scandal, regulatory problems with the state and a shift in power on the City Commission.

About $11 million of the cuts from the billion-dollar municipal budget will come from leaving vacancies open until at least October, when the current budget year begins. In a memo, City Manager Art Noriega wrote that sworn police officers, first responders, and open jobs in the building, planning and zoning departments will not be frozen.

Beyond that, it’s unclear which specific jobs will be impacted.

“The positions are fluid,” said city spokeswoman Kenia Fallat. “The city manager will work with each department to see ... the most efficient way to staff operations of the city.”

City records show that another $11.23 million is being cut from budget reserves for labor negotiations, and $2.67 million would be taken from the city’s Transportation Trust Fund, a pot of money set aside for municipal transit projects. Fallat said the cuts would not impact services to city residents.

Funding for the Miami River Boat Parade was cut by $100,000, a reduction that Miami River Commission Chairman Horacio S. Aguirre said was the “responsible thing to do.”

In a 4-0 vote, commissioners approved the reduced budget Thursday. Commissioner Joe Carollo was not present for the vote.

The cuts stem from City Hall dysfunction that snowballed after former Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla was arrested on corruption charges and removed from office weeks before the city’s deadline to pass a balanced budget. With only four of five seats filled, the commission approved a property tax rate and budget in late September, days before the beginning of the new budget year on Oct. 1.

In late November, state regulators notified the city that the budget vote was invalid because of state requirements that call for the unanimous vote of a full commission. The four sitting commissioners approved the budget, following City Attorney Victoria Méndez’s advice, according to Noriega.

Read more: Miami faces possible $56M shortfall after state regulators say budget vote was invalid

But the Florida Department of Revenue gave a different opinion, and the commissioners were forced to vote on the budget again in December with a full board.

In December, commissioners passed a lower tax rate than the one approved in September, leading to the need to slash $25 million from this year’s spending plan.

Díaz de la Portillla has pleaded not guilty to charges that he sold his vote in exchange for campaign contributions and gifts. He awaits trial.

Méndez, facing her own controversies, is effectively being pushed out after commissioners in January approved only a five-month extension to her contract. She will leave the city in June.