It costs a family of five about $1,500 for a four-day pass to the theme parks at Disney World near Orlando, Florida. It takes Weston Vlier, who drives a bus there, four weeks to earn that much.
“If nobody is able to help us out with food, we just don’t eat,” said the 42-year-old father of three who makes less than $25,000 per year. “I can’t even pay my rent this week.”
Vlier belongs to a growing class of working poor in Orlando, which has the lowest median pay among the 50 most-populous American metropolitan areas, according to U.S. Labor Department data. Three of the city’s largest employers, including Walt Disney Co. (DIS), increased starting pay this year. Even after Disney raised its minimum wage to $10 per hour, Vlier still lives below the federal poverty line.
A local economy dominated by low-wage jobs has caused fiscal troubles for Mayor Buddy Dyer, a 56-year-old third-term Democrat, underscoring the widening gap between cities as well as among wage earners. Orlando lifted property taxes by 17.7 percent last month to close a $17 million budget hole next year. It joins low-wage cities like Atlantic City, New Jersey and Memphis, Tennessee, struggling to cover rising costs. In contrast, Houston, Nashville, Tennessee, and San Jose, California, have seen property-tax collections soar to records.