In his last hour as an elected official in 2013, retiring Margate City Commissioner, Joe Varsallone, called to bring back the 5-day work week to benefit quality of life in Margate. Four years later, the Margate City Commission gave the city manager direction to open Margate City Hall Monday-Friday effective January 1, 2018.
“The schedule [four day work week] is not user friendly. It’s not good for the residents,” Vice Mayor, Arlene Schwartz said at the Wednesday city meeting. “I don’t think a five-day work week has worked very well. I think we need a full service city that works five days a week.” ______________
After a 3-2 vote of elected officials and some blow back from City Manager, Sam May, the city commission directed May to have City Hall open five days effective next year. Left unclear was whether May would accomplish the objective by making all employees in all departments work five days a week, or alternate four-day City Hall workers Monday-Thursday and Tuesday-Friday. Police and Fire departments were exempt from the conversation as both operate 24/7. The majority of city employees impacted by the change include full-timer office workers.
Mayor, Tommy Ruzzano, said he has been suggesting the move from four to five days since elected in 2012, and Schwartz and City Commissioner, Anthony Caggiano - both elected last November, campaigned on the heels of a five-day work week. Margate resident, John Hall, commended the three for supporting the change.
“I resented your four-day work week from the moment you started it," Hall told commissioners. “You took 20 percent of the service that you used to give me and threw it out the door. It is good to see the people I voted for [follow through]. "Don’t put it off. Let Margate be a leader, Let’s get the ball rolling.”
Margate went to a four-day work week in 2008 along with other Broward County cities. The move was touted as a way to conserve energy expenditures during recession. Instead of scheduling employees 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. culminating in a 40-hour work week, employees would work four 10-hour shifts 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. This, in turn, would save on electricity and other resources.
"The City will save on fuel, utilities, uniform costs, and employee lost time due toscheduling of appointments throughout the week. The employees will benefit by reducing their weekly work budget by 20%. Research of this issue indicates the change will be for the better and in fact, may become the norm for all local and state governments," the city announced to press at the time.
Ruzzano refuted cost savings.
“I’ve been in here on Saturdays and Sundays and it blows cold,” the Mayor said about air conditioning at City Hall. Notably, keeping computer servers and other IT equipment cool in the building is a must 24/7 whether the building is occupied or not.
Never officially having measured whether going to a four day work-week was effective for Margate taxpayers, Commission, Joanne Simone, dissented on five days because she didn’t think residents needed City Hall open Friday. She asked for statistics - numbers hard to achieve since the building has been closed on Friday for eight years.
The topic of a 5-day work week was breached by Margate resident, Julie Jones, who asked commissioners to revisit the topic after some campaigned on it last year.
“If we want something from the City on a Friday, we can’t get it. Pay a water bill in cash, pull a permit, get a license...” she said during the public speak portion of Wednesday’s meeting. Jones said a lot of her neighbors felt the same.
The resident said she has liked the idea of going back to a 5-day work week since hearing Commissioner, Anthony Caggiano, speak to the benefits of customer service.
May said he would gladly look into a five day work week, but didn’t think it was within the scope of the city commission to direct him to do so.
“That’s part of operations in the city,” said May. “I believe the job of the city commission is to [establish] policy in the city of Margate.”
Caggiano was less than pleased with the answer.
“The city manager has been given direction by the city commission to get City Hall open five days and I expect him to follow that direction,” he announced.
Coral Bay resident, Tony Spavento, agreed with May in that he didn’t think commissioners had a say in the matter.
“It’s not your jurisdiction, it’s his jurisdiction. You’re out of line," he told them. "You do not give direction on running the city.”
Schwartz said she understands that employees have gotten used to a three day weekend - and a four-day weekend when holidays happen on Mondays - but “That really doesn’t work for the rest of us,” she said on behalf of constituents.
Schwartz spoke to the 11 or so national holidays every year that enable city employees to take Monday off with pay, which in turn results in a 3-day work week for employees with Fridays off.
“I would expect the city manager to take that suggestion to heart and go back to doing that because that’s what the people who live here [Margate] want,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said she didn’t like putting May on the spot, but commissioners talked about opening five days in a workshop and it was time to make a decision. While the city provides building inspections on Friday, contractors cannot apply for permits - a revenue source for the department.
“However it gets done that these doors are open five days a week. I understand staff works for you, but you work for us,” she told May.
Residents speaking at the meeting were largely in favor of going back to a five-day work week at City Hall.
“Going onto the four day thing was terrible. It needs to go back to where it was. The people that work here don’t want to work ten hours a day,” said a resident from the Paradise Gardens III community.
Margate resident, Rich Popovic, recalled when Margate went to four days and said it was supposed to be for a trial period. Popovic favored a five-day week.
“It was passed by people who worked for the city and it was billed as a big cost saver. I don’t think a four-day work week is good customer service,” he said.
Resident, Manuel Lugo, said the city manager May was one of the “smartest people he’s met,” and was convinced that he wouldn’t have problems with the logistics of going from four days to five. Lugo said he believed it was within the scope of commissioners to dictate policy to May.
“Commissioners are policy makers...and we’re [taxpayers] the ones paying everybody’s salary. We need the service,” he said.
May wasn’t sure on a date when the five-day workweek could be achieved, so the Mayor set one for him.
“I’m giving him to January 1st,” Ruzzano said. “You need to start running government like a business. We need to get things done.”
Commissioner Lesa Peerman, who along with Simone dissented on a five-day work week, told Ruzzano that elected officials can't make unilateral decisions and that giving the city manager direction requires a majority vote on the dais.
After a motion and a second, three of five commissioners approved the five day work week.
Margate resident and Board of Adjustment member, Charlie Artner, said there shouldn't be a problem making the change.
"It is the way it used to be, so it can’t take too much,” he said. “I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel.
Based on City of Margate utility bills pulled by MargateNews.net in 2013 along with estimated hours worked by employees, moving back to a five day work week could save taxpayers nearly $230,000 a year in productivity and wages.
“I don’t know how people can say four days is better than five,” Ruzzano said.