Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez says he is slamming on the brakes.
As of Oct. 1, the mayor announced he is eliminating county car allowances. Tax dollars won't be spent on leasing and paying for vehicles for county staff.
"A real culture change is needed at County Hall. No more car allowances on the public's dime -- not in my office and not on my watch," Gimenez said.
Each year, Miami-Dade County government spends over $1 million on car allowances for several hundred employees. But that's not all; 530-plus civilian employees also get to take their county-assigned vehicles home at night. Their gas, maintenance and insurance are paid for by taxpayers. It costs Miami-Dade taxpayers $1.3 million a year in take-home costs.
"I see them as an unnecessary practice and an unfair burden to the taxpayer," Gimenez said.
The mayor said only people who are on-call for 24-hour emergency response should be allowed to take county vehicles home.
A recent Local 10 report highlighted abuses in the system. A Local 10 camera captured an employee taking her county vehicle to go work out in Coral Springs. Another employee took a county vehicle to drop off his daughter at school.
Several departments said allowing vehicles to go home with employees increases productivity because employees aren't wasting time picking up and dropping off vehicles. But after the report, the mayor said there was a need for change.
"When we saw the report and the level of abuse, we can't sustain that. I will be very, very strict in terms of what I consider a emergency 24 response. That is the only person who needs a take-home car. Just about everyone else, there is no need for that," the mayor said.
Broward Reduces Take-Home Cars By 88%
Local 10 has learned that over the past few years, Broward County has reduced its number of take-home vehicles by 88 percent.
"This was just a perk that we could no longer afford. So we needed to take a look at the number of take-home vehicles in the county," said Chris Walton, Broward's director of transportation.
Broward went from 148 county-owned vehicles going home with employees to just 18.
Walton claims Broward has saved 2 million miles on the county's fleet of vehicles.
"We have seen a significant savings in fuel costs. With the reduction of the miles, we extend the life of the existing fleet," he said.
In Broward, employees in essential services take vehicles home on a rotation basis. If there is a traffic light out, a computer malfunction or a sign down, the person or people on call are dispatched.
"From an efficiency standpoint, we think we are still able to get the jobs done," Walton said.
Walton said Broward is looking to reduce its take-home fleet even more.