Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman announced on Tuesday that during fiscal 2022 no county employee will earn less than $15 an hour.
Lieberman's comments came during her 2022 budget presentation to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). The county manager is required by Florida law to present a proposed balanced budget annually to the board, which then meets several times to make amendments before the budget approval deadline of Sept. 28.
The total Alachua County revenue from all sources for the FY 2022 budget will be $202,052,212, with more than half of that amount—$129,461,412—coming from property tax revenue.
Lieberman noted that coming out of the longest running state of emergency ever issued in Alachua County made for challenges in the budget process, but the infusion of $46.9 million in CARES Act funds and the $52 million in upcoming American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds is paving the way for the county to take care of infrastructure investments for years to come.
Lieberman also made a second significant announcement: For the fifth consecutive year, the county will reduce its millage rate. It will go from 7.8925 to 7.8662.
"Thanks to our prudent and responsible financial planning over many years, we can implement this decision while continuing to provide the same level of excellent programs and services," she said.
Lieberman recommended not increasing the MSTU law enforcement millage rate, the county’s stormwater fee, or to the solid waste assessment.
"After maintaining the county’s fire assessment at the same rate for two consecutive years following its implementation, I am recommending a modest increase to the fire assessment for tier 1 from $83.40 to $90.69 and for tier 2 from $7.63 to $8.31," Lieberman said.
Lieberman said the county has been working for years on the issue of living wages for staff.
"It is with great pride that we can say that this year we will reach that $15 an hour goal," she said. "I am recommending this increase for all county, constitutional and judicial employees that are funded by the county."
Lieberman also announced the desire to provide all non-bargaining employees an across the board cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase, which includes an equivalent level of funding for employees of the constitutional and judicial officers as well.
"I recommend that we set aside a comparable level of funding for bargaining unit employees," she said.
As Lieberman handed the 451- page budget over to the BOCC she said that this is the beginning of a discussion that will result in the alignment of staff efforts and the priorities spelled out in the BOCC's strategic plan.
"We will have multiple discussions and meetings with you."
Lieberman said about scheduled budget meetings between now and the Sept. 28th adoption deadline.
"We will listen carefully to your budget discussions and directions so that the final budget reflects the board's goals and strategies."
County Commission Chair Ken Cornell told Lieberman, "Great job. It is now in our hands, we will try not to mess it up. "