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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two Jobs Released In Proactive Adjustment

-Two Jobs Released In Proactive Adjustment-

The City of Fort Thomas recently let go two outstanding employees, Jay Treft and David Buerger, from their positions.  Jay was the Assistant City Administrator/ Economic Development Director and David was the Director of Recreation.  Jay had been employed since 1999 and David had been employed since 2005.  The reason these men were let go sounded different to Fort Thomas Matters, which prompted some research and the writing of this article.  You may have read a story on about this situation, but Fort Thomas Matters took it a step further; we went to the city council and wanted to know the details behind these men being let go.

The reasons that were given to justify Jay and David being released were the following:

1.      Streamline the delivery of city services
2.       Maintain fiscal stability
3.       Position the city to better address future financial challenges

I understood trying to maintain fiscal stability; less people to pay, more money to “stabilize” the city in other areas.  It is a less than desirable situation when good men lose their jobs, but these are the times that we live in.

The other two explanations didn’t sit right with FTM though.  I wanted more of an explanation of how future financial challenges and streamlined delivery of city services could be justifiable means to relieving someone of their job.  To get my answers I contacted Mr. Don Martin, City Administrative Officer.

I asked Mr. Martin, “In preparing for these future financial woes what if vacating these two positions is not enough?  Could property taxes in Fort Thomas be increased to combat any financial challenges?”
Mr. Martin’s said, “Fort Thomas is fortunate that it generally responds to challenges proactively rather than reactively.  The elected officials believe it is fiscally responsible to address known or anticipated challenges now when they have more flexibility and options, rather than waiting until they are forced to act.  In accordance with state statute the city adjusts the property tax rate annually, and before the city would consider proposing a substantial increase in property taxes I feel confident it would instead focus on reducing expenses or public services.”

I asked Don to explain the “streamlining the delivery of city services” and the part in played into the situation.
Don explained, “One of the goals of the restructuring is to streamline the delivery of city services in a more cost-effective manner.  Effectively the city is delivering the same services it has traditionally provided like grants, economic development, etc. but doing so with fewer employees.”

The one reason behind these terminations that stuck out in my mind was to Position the city to better address future financial challenges.  I thought it sounded different, if not plain wrong, that these men were let go because of a future threat that wasn’t completely guaranteed.  I asked Don to address that issue; this is what he had to say:

“Increased costs and fiscal challenges are guaranteed to a certain extent.  Employee pension contribution rates are projected to rise substantially over the next decade.  The city has no control over these contribution rates and is required to pay the rates established by the state requirement board.  Currently, for police and fire employees, the city is required to contribute 35.76% of the employees’ total pay toward their pensions and this is expected to rise 30% over the next five years.  For non-public safety employees, the city is required to contribute 18.96% of the employees’ total pay and this is expected to rise 20% over the next five years.  When health insurance cost associated with PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), there are additional cost increases which will likely need to be addressed.

Fort Thomas Matters contacted Mr. Treft to get his feelings on recently being let go. 
Mr. Treft explained, “I am very proud of the things that I was able to accomplish for the city during my 12 year tenure.  A few examples include spearheading the community's involvement in the Renaissance/Main Street downtown revitalization program along with creation of a Renaissance Coordinator position With the City Administrator and Renaissance Coordinator I was able to secure several state and federal grants for the community, primarily for business district revitalization and community development.”

The grants that Mr. Treft played a part in securing (upwards of $600,000 total) made the following projects possible for the city:
  1. -          Improve 8 commercial building exteriors in the Town Center and Midway business districts  
  2. -          Construct the sidewalk on Memorial Parkway connecting Fort Thomas to Newport and Bellevue
  3. -          Construct the new bandshell at the amphitheater in Tower Park

Mr. Treft concluded in saying, “I am thankful to have served as the lead staff member on several important projects in the community, including the Midway business district street scape plan, initiating its designation as a national historic district. And also developing a historic preservation ordinance that created the design review board and paved the way for what I hope is the city's eventual purchase of the historic homes on Alexander Circle. I'm also proud of the work of the tree commission, most notably in producing a revised tree ordinance to better address development issues facing the community.

While Fort Thomas Matters is very pleased with the enhancements being done throughout the city; it is unfortunate that two outstanding employees were let go in an attempt to protect the city from future financial hardships.  It should be said that in contacting the city council their comments were nothing but complimentary.  Everyone had great things to say not only about the work that Mr. Treft and Mr. Buerger produced, but also about these men in general!

All of us at Fort Thomas Matters wish nothing but the best for Jay Treft and David Buerger in their future endeavors.  Their work and contributions to the city will be missed.


  1. Very informative article and the future of our city and it's expenses will be going up just as it is all over the country. Glad to see our leaders taking a pro-active stance yet sad to lose such dedicated hard working employees...things need to change in some contract areas!!

  2. Don is right, pension and healthcare costs have risen exponentially over the years and will continue to do so.
    Sometime down the road, Fort Thomas residents will have to pay higher property taxes to cover pension costs (and healthcare) on 100K city admin salaries.

    Some Facts:
    •Kentucky’s public pension systems currently face more than $30 billion in unfunded liabilities.
    •Since 2008, the reported unfunded liability of the Kentucky Employees Retirement System has increased by more than 17%.
    •The Pew Center on the States reported last year that Kentucky’s pension system is funded at only 58% of liabilities, compared to a national average of 78%.
    •Kentucky state employees receive a defined benefit pension plan, a benefit that only 20% of Americans age 50 and over currently receive

  3. This is such a copout. Either in-depthly describe the future financial shortfalls that Don Martin and the city of Fort Thomas are talking about, or stop spending our money as is it's monopoly money. Our property taxes are high enough, we shouldn't have to deal with these pensions that we're having to pay for and mortgage our future and future residents future.

    The city will do anything that they can do to keep residents in the dark. This website is the only way that I ever get any type of news that's worthwhile.

  4. How about if FTM investigates how much the city spent on new park shelters? How many people in Fort Thomas know that an architectural firm was hired to create specially designed shelters and bathroom facilities? Do the citizens of Fort Thomas know that the city could have constructed very nice shelters and bathrooms for a third of the cost? It seems to me that the city way overspent on this project and subsequently two good men lost their jobs. I wish someone would explain how the city could spend all that taxpayer money on park renovation and then terminate the recreation director's job. Frankly, I am not buying what they are selling. Why not dig a little deeper?

  5. We'd love to have FTM become more of a full time endeavor. Unfortunately, this is still our B jobs. We do as well as we can in our spare time, but for the most part, we are still doing this for free.

    Now, if Fort Thomas businesses (who we champion a lot of the time) begin to step up to support the site, you may see our journalistic abilities take a step up.

    I appreciate the comments, everyone.

  6. It's just my humble opinion, but I love the new shelters and restrooms. I didn't grow up in Fort Thomas, but I live there now with my family and I'm really proud of the improvements. If you're not happy with how the City is spending money and investing in the future of their property then either move or run for council. The parks and the improvements to the parks are one of the reasons why home values have been able to remain stable in the City. I feel as though the City is investing money to ensure that my property value remains stable. Plus, we now have improvements to the infrastructure at the parks that will last 50 or so years with the right maintenance. You don't find those kind of improvements anywhere else right now, with the exception of Cincinnati.

  7. And Cincinnati is the beacon of financially sound government.

  8. To the above post: The shelters and bathrooms are very nice - and they should be when you look at the price tag! The city could have replaced the bathrooms and shelters for a fraction of the cost and you and I would not have known any difference - they would have looked very nice. And I agree our parks are one of the amenities that make Fort Thomas a nice place to live. It is too bad the city manager doesn't put the same value on parks and recreation since the Director of Parks and Recreation was one the employees who lost their job. How does one explain making such a huge investments in the parks and then firing the Director of Parks and Rec? The city has had a Director of Parks and Recreation since Tower Park was established (back in '72 I believe) and now, all of the sudden, this position is not needed? Go figure.....