$15 minimum wage on tap for West Palm Beach city workers


Nationwide, the $15 minimum hourly wage has been a point of debate in this year’s presidential race, with former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders pushing for it, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton vowing to step up to it and GOP nominee Donald Trump saying alternately that he would and wouldn’t raise it.

But in West Palm Beach it has become a reality, or at least will in the city’s 2018 fiscal year, which could make it the first Florida city to hit that level.

After years of lean times for West Palm Beach workers, the city commission last week adopted a budget that boosts city workers’ minimum wage and adds parental leave and education benefits.

The federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 an hour, but cities and states are free to go above that. Florida’s is $8.05 and West Palm Beach’s lowest paid worker is a groundskeeper who made $11.98 until now. But as of Oct. 1, the West Palm Beach minimum rises to $13.25, then to $14.25 next year and then to $15 in fiscal year 2018-19.

“One of our values is that we respect our employees and recognize their achievements,” Mayor Jeri Muoio said Thursday. “So it’s important to us to make sure they know we’re here for them.”

According to Muoio, St. Petersburg is the only other Florida city planning to post a $15 minimum, but it’s not scheduled to do so until 2020.

Forty-six workers were below $13.25, but because the staff already was scheduled for an across-the-board raise of 3.25 percent, only 18 would have been left below that amount — 15 full-time workers and three part-timers, according to Jose Luis Rodriguez, human resources director. The minimum wage increase will cost the city $30,900 over the next year, he said.

The city can raise that minimum and improve other benefits because real estate values have been rising steeply — by 10 percent over the past year — giving the city an extra $7.9 million in its operating budget, which now stands at $171 million.

The commission this week also passed a six-week paid parental leave for any employee having or adopting a baby or fostering a child. Previously the employees could take federal family medical leave but that’s not paid.

So now, they can have six paid weeks off, followed by another six weeks of family medical leave. If they had sick or vacation time saved up, they could use that to be paid during the second six weeks, Rodriguez said.

The city also has re-instituted a higher education benefit, budgeting $100,000 for a program it suspended during the economic downturn, in 2009. On a first-come basis, employees can be reimbursed for up to 12 credit hours for courses leading to an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree.

It’s hard to estimate the cost of that program, so the city is setting aside the same amount it used in 2009, he said. “Once we establish a trend line this year, that funding level might have to go up to include more employees who want to participate.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Fire collapses roof of Boca Raton home
Fire collapses roof of Boca Raton home

A fire Sunday afternoon collapsed the roof of a home in the Vintage Isles neighborhood of Broken Sound, near Yamato and Jog roads, Boca Raton Fire Rescue said. Firefighters were called around 12:30 p.m. and found the family outside with a pet. The home was filled with smoke and the fire was pinpointed at the rear in the master bedroom, the release...
Honda Classic 2018: Photos of moments before, after Justin Thomas won
Honda Classic 2018: Photos of moments before, after Justin Thomas won

Justin Thomas’ playoff win at this year’s Honda Classic means a Jupiter resident will claim the trophy - and the millions of dollars of prize money - for the second consecutive year. Thomas and last year’s champ Rickie Fowler are not only friends, they’re neighbors. Fowler was there to congratulate Thomas after his drama-filled...
Hugh Grant pays tribute to former 'Notting Hill' co-star Emma Chambers
Hugh Grant pays tribute to former 'Notting Hill' co-star Emma Chambers

Actor Hugh Grant took to Twitter to mourn his “Notting Hill” co-star Emma Chambers, who died Wednesday at the age of 53. “Emma Chambers was a hilarious and very warm person and of course a brilliant actress,” wrote Grant, who played the brother to Chambers’ character in “Notting Hill.” “Very sad news...
Douglas High students come back to school; try to resume normalcy
Douglas High students come back to school; try to resume normalcy

The worst of it, for the kids, might have been seeing their backpacks, in boxes lining the hallways, for them to claim. Each bore a police tag marked “evidence.” On this warm Sunday, a day of the week when children normally aren’t at school, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High were allowed to come back onto the campus...
Teen in critical condition after nearly drowning in Tequesta
Teen in critical condition after nearly drowning in Tequesta

A Florida teenager is in critical condition after nearly drowning on Sunday. The 13-year-old was swimming with family and friends in Tequesta, across from Coral Cove Park, when he got caught in the current. A good Samaritan rescued the teen from the water and performed CPR until Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived. The teen was taken...
More Stories