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Friday, March 30, 2018

Pension Bill Passes: Everything You Need to Know

Efforts to reform the state’s public pension systems have taken a winding road and faced uncertain prospects at times since the issue came to the forefront of public discussion last year. But after making changes based on input received from stakeholders throughout the General Assembly’s 2018 session, public pension legislation reached the end of its legislative journey this week as lawmakers approved a bill on the issue and delivered it to the governor’s office to be signed into law.

Fort Thomas Independent Schools are on their first day of Spring Break, which also happen to be Good Friday, but they held a walk-in to protest the cuts to education funding through Senate Bill 1 (pension) and HB 200 (budget). The budget bill, HB 200, is still in flux and could potentially include funding for construction of a new Johnson Elementary.

A house line item in that budget included over 10 million for the elementary school on the north side of Fort Thomas, but was removed from the Senate version with an increase for bonding capacity.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Education Community to Participate in Walk-In 

Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent, Dr. Karen Cheser, said that she knew that something had to be done to address pensions, but the way in which is was passed was concerning.

"I’m glad that something got done because we all realized that the pension system was hurting, but there are some definite concerns on what the bill means for new hires. While we don't have a lot of new teachers that are hired within our district, a 2% contribution from the district will be felt in 15-20 years when we do essentially have all new staff."

Cheser cited HB 539, the Shared Responsibility Bill, as a viable alternative. She said the bill, which had broad support, would have actually saved more money than Senate Bill 1.

The bill's passage seems to have caused a chain-reaction of school districts are closing on Friday. Fayette County Schools started the trend and it was followed up by local district in Campbell County, Dayton Independent and Gallatin County Schools.

Campbell County Superintendent David Rust cited excessive absenteeism for Friday's closure.

"Due to excessive staff absenteeism in our schools and the inability to adequately fill absentee requests," he wrote.

Supporters of the bill say it would help reduce more than $40 billion in unfunded costs to the state’s pension systems. It received final passage Thursday by a 22-15 vote in the Kentucky Senate.

Governor Matt Bevin is expected to sign it.

Attorney General, Andy Beshear, is expected to fight it.

One notable change to the legislation in recent days was removing a provision that would have reduced the cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers. The previous proposal would have reduced that adjustment from 1.5 percent to 1 percent, but there’s no such reduction in the plan lawmakers ultimately approved.

The goal is to stabilize pension systems that face more than $40 billion in unfunded liabilities. More funding is one part of the plan, according to the proposed state budgets both chambers have approved but, as of this writing, have not come to a final agreement on. Changes proposed by the pension reform legislation, Senate Bill 151, are aimed at shoring up the system in a number of ways, such as by placing future teachers in a hybrid “cash balance” plan rather than a traditional benefits plan and by limiting the impact of accrued sick leave on retirement benefit calculations.

Daniel Desrochers, from the Lexington Herald Leader summarized seven items teachers need to know about the pension bill:

Here are highlights of the plan that have a direct affect on Kentucky’s current and retired school teachers:

City Council Roundup: 2017 Reports, 2018 Plans

City Administrator Ron Dill (center) shares his thoughts on school safety in light of recent national events. He is flanked by Council member Jeff Bezold (l) and Mayor Eric Haas (r)
The March Fort Thomas City Council meeting included reports looking at economic development, general services and recreation last year as well as some plans for the year ahead.

In light of recent recent school shootings and elsewhere, City Administrator Ron Dill took the opportunity to make a statement reassuring the community that, although Fort Thomas is miles away from the tragedy, officials are taking the safety of our schools and our community very seriously.

"I have been working with the police chief, and we've had meetings with the schools on the whole issue of school safety. We are certainly cognizant of the things that have occurred nationally, and we have made a very conscious effort to sit down with the school district," said Dill.

For several years now, the schools, city staff and public safety personnel have worked together on school safety. All involved are evaluating and refining plans and will continue to do so going forward, he said.

Alexander Circle Project extension and plans

Phone: 859-905-0714 - Email: This is an advertisement. 

The council heard from Ken Schon of Bloomfield/Schon, the developers of the Alexander Circle (aka VA Homes) Project. Work continues, but the developer asked for an extension to complete work with the local utility companies as they prepare the property.

Schon also announced a new process for handling the sale of the first homes in the project. With a growing list of those with serious interest in purchasing the properties, the developer has created a registration process.

Those who have expressed serious interest for particular properties would be registered for that property. They will receive the final price once it is established and would be invited to put down a refundable deposit.

Council member Ken Bowman, who is a realtor, said that was an unusual way to handle the buying process.

"We decided to do that instead of holding everyone off and starting what could be a free for all. We worked on the process for months and decided this was the best way," said Schon.

Council agreed to allow the extension on the Stage Two plan for the properties as the developer works with the utilities.

More Notes from Council: Street Tax Bills, Renovations to Armory and Mess Hall

Officer Nicholas Hoffman shares his traffic report with city council

News from Police and Fire departments 

Chief Mike Daly gave the monthly police report. He noted that officers will wear mourning bands on their badges in honor of a Pikeville Police Department Officer Scotty Hamilton who was recently killed in the line of duty. The officers will wear the bands through Saturday, April 14.

At the meeting, Daly also announced he will be retiring as of July 31. He has been with the department since 2005 and has a career in law enforcement spanning 27 years. A few days after his announcement, Casey Kilgore was named to replace him as chief.

RELATED: Casey Kilgore Named Fort Thomas Chief of Police

In other police department news, Officer Nicholas Hoffman is the new traffic officer. He is filling a new position created in response to community concerns over speeding and other traffic issues. He has been working in the position since the start of the year to gather information that can be used in measuring effectiveness of the new dedicated role.

RELATED: Police Department Creates New Traffic Officer Position 

Fire Department Chief Mark Bailey asked those present to share the reminder that the spring "leap forward" for Daylight savings time is a good time to test and replace smoke detector batteries. He also noted that defibrillators are out in parks and recreation facilities for the spring sport season.

Law, Labor and License Committee update 

The Law, Labor and License Committee met before the council meeting and had news to share on a number of items.

The committee recommended passage of a new ordinance designed to identify vacant residential properties. The ordinance asks owners to notify and register their empty properties with the city. The move will help eliminate safety hazards and possible code violations. This was the first reading of the ordinance.

Another ordinance will create a Code Enforcement Board in the city. The board would review city code violations, create rules and regulations and set penalties. The committee was not prepared to recommend the ordinance yet because it will affect some language and penalty statements in other ordinances. More work is being done on this topic for future introduction.

RELATED: Proposed Ordinances Address Vacant Homes and Property Issues 

Lastly, the committee discussed the deer population control program proposed and funded by a group of concerned city residents. Members agreed more information and research is needed before moving forward with support of the program.

Other business: Street improvements, renovations, donations 

The city council meeting was packed with information on a variety of city projects underway. Dill reported work has begun on the Burnet Ridge stabilization project.

Crews are finishing up work on improvements to the baseball field including a retaining wall replacement. The city had a slight shortfall on that work, and the Highlands Athletic Boosters raised $30,000 to help bring the projects to completion.

Bids are in for renovations on the Armory and Mess Hall. Work would include tuck pointing, painting and repairs, including soffits and gutters. Estimates for the project were low, and as the plan developed more needs became apparent, said Dill.

When bids came back much higher than the original $320,000 estimate, he was not alarmed or surprised as the scope of the project had grown. Bids came back with a range of $432,700 to almost $699,000. Cincinnati-based Structural Systems Repair Group (SSRG) won the bid. The company has worked with Fort Thomas before on the tuck pointing of the Tower.

"On this project, our goal is safe and dry. It’s the building envelope, addresses everything on the outside of these buildings…This project allows us a fresh start for everything we will do with these facilities," said Dill.

He also noted the city will get a new fountain. Retired city maintenance director Shelby Frazier and his family have donated money for a water fountain to be added to Tower Park.

The council also passed the intent to proceed ordinance for the 2018 street resurfacing program. Three streets that will undergo complete reconstruction are David Drive, Pentland Place and Saber Court. The plan calls for complete removal and construction of these streets, gutters, storm sewer inlets and replacement of granular subgrade with trenches draining under the new pavement.

Property owners are subject to a special assessment that splits work for David Drive and Saber Court 50-50 and for Pentland Place, the city will cover 60 percent and property owner will cover 40 percent.

Costs and scope of the project are:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lucy's on Monmouth is Closed, For Now

Lucy's on Monmouth has been closed since earlier this month, but it's not quite clear of what their future plans are.

Calls and messages to the business have not been returned and the phone number has been disconnected. No public statement has been made on their social media pages regarding a permanent or temporary closure.

Roofing, gutters, siding painting. Call Matt Spencer. 
Lucy's was spawned after the closure of Packhouse Meats in April of last year at 1004 Monmouth Street in the same location.

Packhouse, known for inventive meatballs paired with creative sauces, was also known for its no-tipping policy.

RELATED: Packhouse Meats to Close, Will Open New Concept

Lucy’s featured a gastropub fare which included double-decker sandwiches, feature burgers, nachos, quesadillas, and several other items. There was be a full bar and table service with seating for 90+ people, including 12 outdoor sidewalk seats.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Proposed Ordinances Address Vacant Homes and Property Issues

The city of Fort Thomas is looking at two city ordinances designed to keep neighborhoods safe and tidy.

Council member David Cameron, chair of the Law, Labor and Licensing Committee, introduced ordinances to establish the Vacant Home Registration Program and the Code Enforcement Board at the March city council meeting.

"We are fortunate in Fort Thomas to have very few vacant or nuisance properties in our city. However, when there is one in your neighborhood or on your street, then you know firsthand the negative impact and aggravation it can cause. Overgrown vegetation, rodent infestation, dead trees, and maintenance issues quickly become not only an eye sore but also hazards for our neighbors," said Cameron.

"Since my election to council, I have heard from residents who live near these properties and I understand their frustration. The ordinances I am proposing will provide the city with tools to address and prevent these scenarios."

When city code violations are ignored, they, too, can create unsafe or unsightly conditions that not only hurt the property in question but can have an impact on people living nearby or the entire neighborhood.

Cameron says the goal of both ordinances is not to penalize owners, but to encourage everyone to be a good neighbor. He says, adherence will improve properties’ safety and ultimately contribute to raising property values.

The reasoning behind creation of the Code Enforcement Board, said Cameron, is to create a more streamlined and responsive system for code enforcement. The board will consist of three residents appointed by the mayor for three-year terms. The ordinance also sets up a progressive fee structure for violations.

The Vacant Home Registration Program

A completed draft of the Vacant Home ordinance was recommended to council by the Law, Labor and License Committee.

The ordinance outlines when and how to register vacant property and penalties for those who have not registered within a certain time period.

"Vacant" is defined as property that has no legal resident or tenant. Evidence of a vacant home might include overgrown vegetation, an accumulation of mail or trash, disconnected utilities and other similar conditions.

Before filing, the creditor of the property (bank, savings and loan association, credit union or other entity that holds the debt), must inspect the property and determine whether it is vacant.

If foreclosure proceedings are underway, the property should be registered as vacant, and the ordinance lays out how and when this should happen. The ordinance also outlines expectations of maintenance of the vacant property and states that violations of any ordinances regulating a nuisance must be addressed.

There will be a fee of $100 for registration for one year. Failure to register will include a civil fine of $500. Property vacant more than one year will require a new registration and fee.

This was the first reading of the draft at the city council meeting.

RELATED: Fort Thomas to Explore Vacant Home Registration

Establishment of a Code Enforcement Board

City Administrator Ron Dill announced at the council meeting that the draft of the Code Enforcement Board ordinance was not yet ready for draft form.

"What it comes down to is whether we are hitting the mark on a number of related issues…because it’s a whole lot more widespread than just creating a Code Enforcement Board. It affects a lot of our ordinances particularly with regard to how where our penalty statements are. Some are in our code ordinances, some in our zoning ordinances."

Dill did provide a draft of the penalty fee section of the ordinance. The schedule provides for first time penalty with an increase for subsequent penalties and an increase if there is an appeal.

The ordinance will establish an administrative board with the authority to issue remedial orders and impose fines to ensure compliance with city ordinances. It also sets out all the rules of board makeup, terms of office, quorum and related items.

The powers of the board will include the power or duty to:

This Newport Family-Shelter Aims to Give Every Family a Home

This painted tree in the entry of Family Promise of Northern Kentucky holds photos of many of the families the sheltering program has helped.

Today, according to Family Promise of Northern Kentucky, one child out of five lives in poverty in the U.S., and families with children make up 40 percent of the people in this country who experience homelessness. What you may not know: When a family experiences homelessness and seeks out shelter, they are typically split up. But Family Promise is different.

After serving northern Kentucky families for 23 years, Family Promise of Northern Kentucky, a sheltering program that allows families to stay together, was forced to close its doors May 2014.

Amanda Speier, Family Promise of Northern Kentucky executive director.

Enter the Fort Thomas Ministerial Association.

According to Executive Director Amanda Speier (who many Fort Thomas residents might recognize from her second full-time job at the Campbell County YMCA), largely thanks to a collaborative effort from the churches in Fort Thomas, Family Promise reopened July 2016.

Friday, May 18, Family Promise is hosting a Fort Thomas event – Pints for Promise: Parking Lot Party, a Fort Thomas church collaborative. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., rain or shine, adults can enjoy beer and wine tasting while children enjoy hotdogs and root beer floats at Christ Church United Church, 15 S. Fort Thomas Ave. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children, and includes the beer, wine and root beer floats, as well as food and live music. To purchase your tickets, go here.

So how does Family Promise work?

Family Promise accepts a maximum of four families and no more than 14 individuals at any given time.

"We're the only all-inclusive family shelter in northern Kentucky," Speier says. Many shelters can't accept anyone under 18 due to liability issues, and most shelters are for men only or women only. Family Promise is the only local shelter that keeps families together. Families can include single mothers, single fathers, husbands and wives with or without children, same-sex partners, grandparents etc. "We never define what family looks like," Speier says.

Local churches host the families on a rotating basis. For one week the families will eat dinner, spend the night on cots and air mattresses, and then eat breakfast at the host church. Volunteers provide and prepare home-cooked meals. (Many churches that don't have room to house the families overnight contribute by providing meals at a host church for a week.)

"It's neighbors helping neighbors," Speier says.

The child-friendly play area at Family Promise's Newport location.

The Day Center's lounge.

Families can store leftovers and other items in the Day Center's kitchen.
During the day, the families are welcomed at Family Promise's Day Center, located at 336 West 9th St. in Newport. Families may also use this as a temporary address. The Day Center has a washer and dryer (although one washer is broken and they're in need of a new one), lockers for families to store their belongings, private bathrooms with showers, a lounge area with TV, a play area for children, a kitchen area and a small outdoor area.

Amber Pegg, Family Promise of Northern Kentucky director of operations and case manager.

Director of Operations Amber Pegg (who, like Speier, also has a second full-time job) serves as case manager for each of the families. She meets with them once a week, helping them find employment and social services. She also helps families create budgets – the goal is for adult family members to find jobs and save money while in the program, so that they have enough money when they graduate from the program to put down a deposit and first month's rent on an apartment. Family Promise also provides transportation to things like doctor appointments, job interviews and more during a family's stay.

In order to allow families to stay together, Family Promise does require drug testing and background checks, where they mostly look for violent and/or recent crimes. Because of this, they aren't eligible for federal or state funding (however they do receive county funding). While this is a barrier for some seeking shelter, drug testing and background checks is what allows Family Promise to open their doors to women, children and men, keeping families together.

How can you help?

If your church is not a host church, consider becoming one. Right now Family Promise is working with 10 host churches, but they'd like to be working with 13 so that each church only hosts four times a year.

Become a volunteer. You don't need to be affiliated with a host church – or any church – to prepare home-cooked meals, plan activities, clean the Day Center, read books and play board games with children, help adults write resumes and more. Volunteers are always needed and welcome at host churches.

Think outside the box. Last year Campbell County YMCA provided six scholarships for children in the Family Promise program to attend summer camp while their parents worked. Restaurants such as Sparetime's Belly & Soul Diner  and Skyline Chili in Highland Heights offers families the opportunity to eat out at no cost. Photographers volunteer time and talent by taking nice photos of families – for many, these photos are the only ones these families have.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Seasonal Allergy Relief: Anointed Touch Massage


Most of us consider massage a luxury rather than a integral part of a healthy lifestyle. We might consider a spontaneous massage while on vacation if the resort or hotel includes a spa. Of course you would be correct, massage is absolutely about relaxation and calm. Setting aside time to actively and intentionally relax is extremely important for our stressed out bodies and minds.

When performed by an expert, massage is much more than an hour of peace and tranquility. Massage has been used for centuries to alleviate or lessen the severity of a host of ills from depression to arthritis, high-blood pressure to anxiety. Combined with the healing power of certain essential oils, massage can effectively manipulate muscles and target specific areas of the body.

German Chamomile: Used in healing massage

Massage and the use of essential oils on the body have deep historical roots reaching back to ancient Egypt. The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to study massage as it related to health. Egyptians were also the first to systematically incorporate massage and essential oils for healing. Perhaps most famously, Frankincense, now widely used in massage and skin care, was one of the ingredients added to the mix that produced the striking black kohl eyeliner seen in ancient Egyptian art and artifacts.

Ancient Egyptians harnessed the power of essential oils and massage


Massage is an excellent compliment to conventional medical care for a variety of conditions including immune system disorders, insomnia, headaches and seasonal allergies. By reducing inflammation in the body and boosting the immune system massage techniques work with the body's natural defense and healing process. Massage increases circulation - moving oxygen and nutrients to cells and removing waste products - thus allowing the body's natural detoxification process to work more effectively and efficiently.

Tiffany Maple, owner of Anointed Touch Massage, is a firm believer in the healing power of massage. After completing a Masters in Public Health, Tiffany worked as an athletic trainer for over a decade. She saw daily the impact of athletic related injuries and the power of massage to both prevent and rehabilitate. As a licensed massage therapist she is fully versed in the healing power of massage to deliver relief from what ails us.

Tiffany Maple, owner of Anointed Touch Massage 

Related: See inside Anointed Touch Studio


Spring is always a welcome change of brighter days, warmer temperatures and fresh blossoms. For many of us, it also means the start of miserable seasonal allergies. 

Massage combined with essential oils applied directly to the skin can help alleviate some of the symptoms that accompany airborne allergies including headaches, sinus pressure and aching, tight muscles in chest, neck and back due to excessive coughing and sneezing.

Because our skin is our largest organ, whatever is applied is directly absorbed into our bloodstream. It is therefore so important to make sure what goes into our body is pure and free of toxins. When asked about using essential oils in her massage therapy practice Tiffany says:

Using essential oils in a massage is so beneficial because during a massage, blood is brought closer to the surface and circulation is increased in the body so the oils can be absorbed more readily into your system making them more effective. 

photo: Young Living Oils

Anointed Touch uses Young Living Oils, Doterra and Ameo essential oils. All three companies are committed to excellence in quality and sustainable practices throughout the whole process starting with the seed. Farming, harvesting and distilling processes are scrutinized ensuring oils are safe and effective.


Try a 30 minute massage ($35) with Anointed Touch's Seasonal Allergy upgrade for $12 which includes a therapeutic blend of lemon, lavender and eucalyptus oil.  

  • Lavender oil is a classic essential oil whose benefits are numerous. Lavender is the go to essential oil for relaxation and is also considered one of the top oils for seasonal allergies. Its healing properties treat inflammation and it is a natural antihistamine.

  • Eucalyptus oil relieves pain and has anti-inflammatory properties. Its benefits are broad and include alleviation of chest pressure, clearing of sinus passages, and aids in the body's natural detoxification process. 

  • Lemon oil is used in massage to boost the immune system and assist in the body's lymphatic process - the body's way of eliminating toxins and its system of transporting white blood cells throughout the body to fight infection. 

Lavender Fields (photo: Young Living Oils)

Other essential oil upgrades can be added to any massage with prices ranging from $12 - $18.
  • Pain & Anti-Inflammation – Frankincense, Idaho Balsam Fir, Copiaba and German Chamomile
  • Immune Support – Thieves Blend, Oregano and Lavender
  • Anti-Anxiety –  Tranquil Blend, Peace and Calming Blend and Vetivir
  • Female Hormone Support – Endoflex Blend and Progessence Blend
  • Seasonal Allergy Relief – Lemon, Lavender and Eucalyptus

Anointed Touch offers a variety of massage services which can be tailored to individual health concerns, aches and pains. 

  •     Swedish Massage
  •     Deep Tissue Massage
  •     Trigger Point Therapy
  •     Sports Massage
  •     Prenatal Massage

Appointments can be scheduled for 30 minutes, 60 minutes or 90 minutes. Anointed Touch will even come to your home. Appointments are available Monday-Saturday. Book your appointment online

Anointed Touch is located at 654 Highland Avenue Unit 17 Fort Thomas, Kentucky 41075
Call: (513) 673-9252

Police Department Creates New Traffic Officer Position

Officer Nicholas Hoffman shares his traffic data with Lisa Kelly and other city council members.
Although most officers deal with traffic violations and related issues in their day-to-day duties, the Fort Thomas Police Department now has a position dedicated exclusively to this issue.

Officer Nicholas Hoffman has been selected to fill the newly created position of Traffic Officer.

Concerned with the growing number of traffic-related complaints by Fort Thomas residents over the past year, City Administrator Ron Dill and Police Chief Mike Daly met to explore ideas and resources available to address the traffic issue and came up with the idea for the new position.

After creating a description of the duties for the position, the chief invited interested officers to apply. The first duty of the traffic officer would be to gather data and provide feedback that could help determine if the position would be effective.

"We were looking for someone who would be very proactive and performance driven in the position," said Daly. He added that he was very pleased to hire Hoffman, a five-year veteran of the department, for the new role.

A new role and a shared goal

Located at 14 N. Fort Thomas Avenue. 

On duties for the new officer, Daly said, "One of the things we thought was important for that position, would be to run the radar on all the traffic complaints we receive on a daily basis. The officer would write traffic citations, state oral warnings, do drug interdiction and enforcement... they would check the traffic book every day to see what streets needed attention."

Improved communications between the department and residents is another goal for the position. The new officer would respond to the complaints personally either by email or with an official letter of response.

Hoffman started in his position in January and kept a detailed log of his daily activities for two months. He created monthly reports based on the data he’d collected and shared them with officials at the March city council meeting.

"I'm thrilled to be here to talk a little bit about this assignment as traffic officer," said Hoffman. "We are very fortunate to have our city leaders recognize the issue and take action to create this position. I’ve been on this assignment for two-and-a-half months. I’ve been working closely with Mr. Dill and Chief Daly to help alleviate the traffic complaints."

Be Part of the Largest Earth Day Celebration in NKY in Fort Thomas on April 22.

The Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy and the City of Fort Thomas are sponsoring the largest Earth Day celebration in Northern Kentucky on April 22, 12:00 - 5:00, at the Mess Hall and surrounding area in Tower Park in the heart of Fort Thomas.  It will be a jam packed day of fun activities. The celebration will feature vendors, exhibitors, activities for kids and adults, and food trucks.

Debbie Buckley, the city's economic developer, says, “This year’s Earth Day event is going to bring so many groups together who share a love of our natural resources. One would never guess how many people in Fort Thomas and our neighboring community focus their talents and passion on protecting and enriching the earth around us. From bicycles to recycling, from hiking to composting, these vendors and participants love this earth. Everyone should see this because you live here too.” 

All vendors have a nature or environmental theme. Roebling Point Books will be there selling nature and environmentally themed books. Leonard Beck will sell his outstanding nature photographs, Ohio RiverWood will display and sell driftwood sculptures and art pieces, and Junk to Enjoy will display and sell whimsical sculpture created from recycled “junk.” In addition Norwex Natural Cleaners will be there.  And there will be a seedling sale to benefit the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy.

Ryan Raised Beef, Diamond Ridge Farm, and Little Green Pastures from the Fort Thomas Farmers Market will be there as well as favorite food trucks like California Tri-Tips, Texas Joe, and La Orangette.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Johnson Elementary Money in Jeopardy

There are always surprises in legislative sessions. But one safe assumption when a state budget must be approved is that Kentucky Senate and House members will form a committee late in the session to iron out differences between each chamber’s preferred state spending plan.

That’s what happened this week as Senate and House members created a conference committee in the hopes of reaching an agreement on Kentucky’s next two-year budget before a legislative recess that’s scheduled to start on March 29.

While many parts of the two chambers’ budgets are in agreement with each other, there are notable differences in each chamber’s spending priorities.

One item that was left out specifically of the Senate budget was the line item appropriation of funding for Johnson Elementary.

Earlier this month, the house approved a budget that included $10,887,400 for Johnson Elementary Schools that would be paid through the School Facilities Construction Commission. They also approved $7,650,300 for Menefee County Schools for Menefee Elementary School.

RELATED: $22.5 Billion State Spending Plan Passes House, Moves to Senate 

State House Representative, Joe Fischer, who represents Fort Thomas in Frankfort thanked House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, for including the Johnson Elementary line item.

"Thank you, Chairman Steven Rudy, for graciously acceding to my persistent requests to include funding for Johnson Elementary in this year's austere budget," said Fischer. "The last time (the) Kentucky House Republicans wrote a budget was the year Johnson Elementary was originally constructed (1922)."

The Senate removed that language for both of the schools.

Sen. Wil Schroder, who represents Fort Thomas in the Senate said that the Senate's version of the budget still placed a commitment on education. He said that while the money specified for any school was removed from the Senate budget, there would be some money for Johnson through the opening up of money through additional bonding.

"With the costs of pensions consuming 14% of the budget, this year's budget is one of the the toughest ever seen in Kentucky. I was thankful that my Senate colleagues understood the importance of extending the equalization language which will help communities like Fort Thomas with school facilities projects. This change will mean an additional $5.5 million in bonding capacity for Johnson Elementary,” he said.

Sen. Wil Schroder. LRC. 
Obtaining equalization money was one of the strategies Fort Thomas stakeholders employed to be able to get the funding necessary for a $22 million school, but the ultimate prize would have been getting money specifically allocated through this year's budget.

With $5.5 million dollars already in the district coffers earmarked for Johnson construction, the additional bonding gets the district to $11 million dollars, but with just half of the total money needed to complete the project, it's not clear what will happen next.

The next budgeting cycle in Frankfort will be in 2020.

So, what's next?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fort Thomas Education Community to Participate in Walk-In to Protest Budget Bill

Fort Thomas teachers and staff will be joining a growing statewide protest for proposed Kentucky budget cuts directed at school districts and, as they see it, a lack of a viable pension reform bill.

District employees are planning a walk-in on Monday, 3-26-18 beginning at 7:15 a.m. at each of the five public schools in Fort Thomas. The walk-in is being organized by the Fort Thomas Education Association, which is the district's local Kentucky Education Association. School districts in Kenton and Boone County staged similar protests on Friday.

"We want to make the community aware of the proposed Kentucky budget cuts that will affect our schools and the pension funding that teachers were promised," said Mary Kinsella, Co-President of the Fort Thomas Education Association. "I feel that educators are being mistreated greatly. The harsh and unkind remarks at the state level are unnecessary."

Dawn Hils, who is the other Co-President and 29-year teaching veteran at Woodfill Elementary School, said that teachers and staff are planning to be in the front of their buildings for drop-off and arrival time with signs protesting this budget bill.

"We feel a professional and personal responsibility to stand up for what is right for our students, as well as our current, retired and future teachers of this community," she said.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt told a House budget subcommittee that cutting the state’s education achievement gap in half in the next 13 years is unrealistic without sufficient funding.

“Our districts are under extreme financial distress,” Pruitt told reporters.

The Northern Kentucky Education Association, echoed that message, stating that Kentucky must restore funding for programs like SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) funding, Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, preschool, KTIP (Kentucky Teacher Internship Program), ARC (Actuarially Required Contribution) funding to public pension systems, and professional development.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s two-year budget proposal would keep per-student K-12 funding at the same level in the next two fiscal years, but it would inflict cuts elsewhere. He unveiled a spending plan in mid-January that would impose reductions across most of state government.

Bevin’s proposal would cut the state’s share of health insurance coverage for school districts by tens of millions of dollars, and would require districts to cut administrative costs by 12 percent.

Sen. Wil Schroder, who represents Fort Thomas in the Kentucky Senate said that the Senate's version of the budget placed a commitment on education.

"We were able to accomplish this by investing record amounts in per-pupil funding for schools, known as(SEEK), and funding school transportation at historical records," he said.  "The fiscally prudent budget was the result of directing additional money to Kentucky’s drastically underfunded public pensions."

The Senate budget takes funding from the pension system and shifts healthcare costs onto the districts, which the education community believes would have devastating effects on the amount of money they can devote to the students.

Schroder said that while the Senate plan does not contain $59.5 million for retired teachers’ health care, it would use a nearly $1 billion trust fund to pay for the insurance.

"The Senate plan contained language intended to make it more affordable for school districts to hire resource officers and implement other security measures, as well. This bill does not have language funding charter schools, but it does allow some education dollars to follow the students if their families choose to enroll them in a charter school."

Despite Schroder's explanation of the Senate budget, what has teachers up in arms is the fact the ARC (Actuarially Required Contribution) is funded far less than other two public-employee plans.

Both the Governor and House's plan funded the full ARC for all plans, leaving only the teacher's plan far below what the actuaries require in the Senate plan. This has members of the education community feeling like the budget is punishing them for not supporting Senate Bill 1, known as the pension bill.

"While Senate Bill 1 is still floating out there, worrying our retired teachers with reductions in their costs of living adjustments what the Senate did last week, when they put their touches on the budget bill (House Bill 200), was cut the annual required funding for teacher retirement in half," said Hils.

"As they say, our teacher retirement system works when it's fully funded, and cutting it by a billion dollars is not going to get it done. It's generally felt around the state that because the education community did not support SB1, the Senate essentially threw teachers under the bus by not funding our pensions in the budget. Then, to fund other things, both Houses, in fact, are dipping deeply into our healthcare pot of money. So our retirement is insecure and our health care is insecure. To say teachers are feeling devalued and nervous is an understatement."

The education community in northern Kentucky and across the state at large believe these bills, Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 200, could put the future of education in peril going forward. Kinsella said she believes it's time to get the community involved, which is the goal of the protests Monday.

"The budget, as it stands, has an immediate impact on Fort Thomas as it decreases our textbook and professional development funds, and if the district has to cover reduced employee healthcare and retirement for classified staff, this could mean decreases in staffing and instructional materials," said Hils.

There are some stark realities that teachers and districts will have to face if this budget is passed.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Highlands Hosts Shark Tank Competition to Better Greater Cincinnati Region

Highlands Business Management students in Mrs. Elise Carter's class are learning real-life skills in a competition that aims to show off their presentation abilities and business know-how in Highlands version of The Shark Tank.

Modeled after the critically acclaimed and award-winning reality show that has reinvigorated entrepreneurship in America, Highlands has employed Fort Thomas superintendents, Highlands High School administration, and business community members to judge their Shark Tank.

859-781-5777. Call Ashley Barlow. This is an advertisement. 
“The service learning project that Mrs. Carter has embedded into this course provides our students with the opportunity to develop valuable essential skills that will be transferable across any career, or area of study, that they may elect to enter into," said Assistant Superintendent and "shark judge", Bill Bradford.

"The students’ business plans included a thoughtful integration of research and development.  One of the most influential expectations of this project that will impact their real life experiences is in the collaboration and group accountability among peers, as well as the presentation aspect of articulating a business plan to an authentic audience.”

While the sharks on the show search to invest in the best businesses and products that America has to offer, Highlands sharks, including superintendent Dr. Karen Cheser and United Property Group owner, Dan Gorman, listened to students who have developed fundraisers for existing non-profit organizations. The goal for these non-profit organizations was to develop a service within their business plan that would allow them to give back or volunteer within the Greater Cincinnati community.

"I think overall, student preparation and buy-in were great. Students really invested the classroom time to learn about their non-profit organization and a few even did a site visit. For many, it was eye opening and required students to put themselves in another person’s experience," said Carter.

Gorman said that he was most impressed with the data presented while in the Shark Tank and the personal solutions to the needs facing non-profit organizations in our community.

“I really enjoy seeing how the kids perform under pressure,” he said. “Their eye contact, how well they know their subject matter, the confidence in the way they speak, how they're dressed; it's an amazing way to give them real life experience.”

Here's When Fort Thomas Ice Cream Will Open

Fort Thomas residents, Jason and Angela Williams, have been hard at work over the winter transforming 1013 S. Fort Thomas Avenue into Fort Thomas' newest business: Fort Thomas Ice Cream.

Now, we know when they'll open and what's on the menu.

The official opening date is Wednesday, April 4th.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Couple to Open Fort Thomas Ice Cream 

For Jason Williams, the decision to own his own business has been a dream of his. The couple moved to Fort Thomas a little over four years ago and had always remarked to each other that the city needed an ice cream shop.

"Over time it was the running joke in our house when we saw spaces become available for rent in Fort Thomas that it was going to become "our" ice cream shop," said Angela, who works as a Senior Construction & Development Project Manager for one of the largest Real Estate companies in the world. She will continue her career there and said her main focus is Construction Management of Commercial Office and Retail spaces within the Cincinnati area.

She told Fort Thomas Matters that on Friday, April 6th, they will host a taste-testing event from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"Anyone will be able to come and sample any and all flavors with the purchase of at least one scoop of ice cream," she said.

She said that during the week of April 9 through April 13, Fort Thomas Ice Cream will have a flavor naming contest.

"The contest will consist of one ice cream flavor selected by Fort Thomas Ice Cream to be name after one of the schools in Fort Thomas," said Williams.

In order to cast a vote, purchase a scoop of ice cream in the shop and you are eligible to cast a vote.
Menu and party packages are listed below:

Thursday, March 22, 2018

BREAKING: Casey Kilgore Named Fort Thomas Chief of Police

Fort Thomas Police Chief Mike Daly has publicly announced that he plans to retire after 27 years of service. Chief Daly will retire on July 31, 2018. Daly has served as the Fort Thomas Police Chief since August 1, 2005.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Police Chief, Mike Daly, Announces Retirement 

Lieutenant Casey Kilgore has been named as Daly’s successor. Kilgore has been with the Fort Thomas Police Department since November of 2000.  He has spent his entire police career with the City of Fort Thomas. He currently serves as the first shift Patrol Lieutenant.  Lieutenant Kilgore has earned his Bachelor's Degree in Criminology from Ohio University, and his Master's Degree in Public Administration from Northern Kentucky University.  While working on his Master’s Degree, Kilgore implemented a comprehensive community survey that allowed multiple stakeholders to share their input with the Fort Thomas Police Department.  He has proudly served the citizens of Fort Thomas as a Detective, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Field Training Officer, SWAT Team Commander, Media Officer, and Bike Patrol Officer.

RELATED: Casey Kilgore is Named Grand Marshal for 2016 4th of July Parade 

Lieutenant Kilgore has attended several police leadership courses to prepare himself to lead the police department.  These include School of Strategic Leadership, Criminal Justice Executive Development, the Academy of Police Supervision, and the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.  He is a member of the Campbell County Police Chiefs Association, the Northern Kentucky Police Chiefs Association, and he serves as the Vice President on the Executive Board of the FBI National Academy, Kentucky Chapter.

After much discussion over the last few months, Mayor Eric Haas, Mr. Ron Dill C.A.O., and Fort Thomas Council Members concluded that Lieutenant Casey Kilgore is the most qualified candidate and best fit to lead the Fort Thomas Police Department into the future. With such an impressive candidate within the department, there was consensus that a lengthy and costly external search for a new chief was not necessary. The promotion of Casey will allow for an easy and effective leadership transition.

LISTEN: Fort Thomas Independent School Leadership Provide District Updates

Dr. Karen Cheser - Superintendent Fort Thomas Independent Schools
Bill Bradford - Asst. Superintendent, Teaching/Learning
Jamee Flaherty - Asst. Superintendent, Student Services


Campbell County's Longest Serving Employee, Golf Pro Terry Jolly, Retiring after 40+ Years

Terry Jolly (3rd from right) with Commissioner Tom Lampe, Lisa Krummen, Commissioner Brian Painter
by Colin Moore

Many golfers see the course as somewhere they go to get away from their home life. Somewhere they can leave the stresses of family life behind and have three or four hours in their own company, or the company of friends. Long time Head Professional at AJ Jolly Golf Course, Terry Jolly, is not one of those men. For the last 45 years the course has been a family affair for him. His parents dropped off there at 15. His brother Gary worked there too. His wife Lisa has worked beside him for almost his entire time there. His son Justin was literally born and raised on the course. Terry is Campbell County’s longest tenured employee, however this June that will come to an end and he’ll leave the only job he’s ever had.

What Terry has meant to Campbell County in that time is immeasurable, according to Commissioner Brian Painter: “It’s only when we were hiring a new police chief that it dawned on me.  That’s an important process, so there were many panels, and so many checks and balances. But the golf pro at AJ Jolly interfaces with many more members of the public in a year than the chief. There are about 23,000 rounds of golf per year, and it’s incumbent upon the professional to be welcoming to everyone who comes through the door. That’s reflected in Terry.

“In his time at AJ Jolly, Terry has been more important to the social fabric of Campbell County than any politician, more than any mayor. Both in terms of the number of people he dealt with, and the way he treated them.”