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.
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 KY.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. 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.