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New Blood No Relief for Jeffersontown Taxpayers

February 7, 2011
By

When Greg Fischer took over as the new Mayor of Louisville, he required all employees who wanted to keep their jobs to  submit some ideas about their positions and how they might make them better.  Skeptics said it was Fischer’s way to get them to justify their jobs, and good government types thought it might actually result in trimming some of the fat in local government personnel.

He ended up keeping just about everyone, but the exercise certainly made employees aware that they were lucky to have those jobs.

Given the same opportunity to assess his 102-employee organization in Jeffersontown, Bill Dieruf did nothing of the sort. Oh, he hired some of Danny Ruckriegel’s relatives and put a campaign worker in charge of public works (reportedly at slightly lower salaries than their predecessors), getting rid of the city’s Parks Director and City Clerk.

Only the best for J-town's police force

But Jeffersontown taxpayers, especially the 750 businesses in the Bluegrass Commerce Park,  should be questioning the salaries being paid by the city and whether or not the workload justifies the expense of running a small city. The budget has grown to $18 million, thanks to the city’s 1% occupational tax on all those businesses, and so the budget has grown as well.

A third of that budget is devoted to salaries, many of which it could be argued are unnecessary. They’re certainly bloated if you compare J-town employee compensation with other businesses and governments.

First of all, no one blinks at the fact that J-town employs a full-time legal counsel, a luxury not shared by other area municipalities, which outsource legal services on an as-needed basis.  Fred Fischer pulls down a tidy $82K in salary. But the real headscratcher is that the city continues to employ Fischer’s wife Elaina as an Executive Assistant to the Mayor, to the tune of $65K, and she drives a city-owned car. When you add in the ridiculously generous benefits package, J-town is spending nearly a quarter million dollars a year on the Fischer family.

I’ve been asking around, and can’t find anyone who can explain what Administrative Assistant Matt Meunier, does for the $76K the city is paying him, plus a car. There’s another assistant to the Mayor, Holly Taylor, who pulls down $65K yet takes off an average of 30+ days per year, according to documents obtained by LouisvilleKY.com.

And unlike other governments, J-town staffers have consistently gotten minimum 3% raises every year and there’s virtually no turnover. Sources tell me that many employees rarely put in a full day and take excessive breaks.  It’s no wonder that bogus Courier-Journal survey found that city employees consider it a top place to work — no accountability, high pay and generous benefits.

In addition to Elaina Fischer and Holly Taylor, the mayor’s office pays four clerical personnel about $50K a year along with another staffer with a title of economic development. Take a look at the Metro Government salaries on the C-J website, and you’ll find plenty of administrative assistant positions that pay in the mid-$30s.

Then there’s the police force. A city official told me once that he’s studied police forces around the state, and J-town’s is the highest-paid group he could find.  Chief Rick Sanders makes $132.5K, compared with Metro chief Robert White, who deals with thousands of officers and real crime issues, and makes just $30K more than that. Louisville police officers start out at $31K and many make less than $40K, while in J-town, only a couple officers in the 52-person force make less than $50K.

Given the amount of crime in the city, it’s shocking that it takes a 52-person force for 26,000 residents in a fairly compact space.

It’s a running joke as well that the accumulation of sick and vacation time are just extra pay — since when officers retire the city has paid six-figure sums in unused sick and vacation time.

Taxpayers may have come to expect the worst from former Mayor Clay Foreman, whose reputation for taking care of his buddies with jobs (even those who were drug dealers) was accepted as the way things work here.  It seems unlikely that taxpayers are going to get any more for their money with this group.

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Rick Redding

Rick is the entrepreneur behind LouisvilleKy.com. He’s been a world-famous blogger since thinking up The ‘Ville Voice back in 2006. Before leaving that start-up in 2009, he was voted the city’s best blogger by Louisville Magazine. LEO Readers voted his site the best independent news site in the city. In 2009 he organized a news operation at LouisvilleMojo and headed up the Local Voices blog team at WLKY.com in 2010. A long time ago, he was a beat reporter at Business First, launched business news operations in the Kiosk and Pizza industries, and wrote a media column at LEO. He’s a Louisville native and a graduate of WKU.

6 Responses to New Blood No Relief for Jeffersontown Taxpayers

  1. resident on February 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Another great article Rick, I have often wondered what some city officials do for their salary and know first hand of the absences and tardies.

  2. Tim Michaels on February 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Wow….sign me up…sounds like the place to work!! I’m sure J’Town could
    use a full-time highly qualified videographer with network news and
    syndicated programming experience…we could crank out some great product
    I’m sure!!

  3. Emily on February 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Wow…

  4. Full Disclosure on February 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Deruf may have inherited this problem from coke nose Foreman but he sure is off to a slow start fixing the problems.

  5. A Thomas on February 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    So, what should we/can we do about it? Seriously, where do we start? Anybody want to post some options?

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