Sustained Outrage

Metro government: More answers from Louisville

Remember the Q&A from the metro government forum earlier this month? Some of those questions were directed to Louisville, Ky., Mayor Jerry Abramson. His office has since sent responses to those questions, and Jennifer Sayre, deputy county manager of Kanawha County, passed them on to us:

louisville_kentucky_seal.jpgFrom: Shannon Tivitt, Chief of Staff, Louisville Metro

RE: Questions and Answers

Our staff has researched your questions about merger of city and county government in Louisville and tried to provide helpful answers. Thank you again for the opportunity to share our success story with your community.

  1. Did you/Do you have any smaller communities that refused to merge? If so, what problems?

The merger statute did not dissolve the 80 or so small suburban cities within Louisville Metro. These citizens are part of Louisville Metro, receive city services and pay city taxes as other residents of the former county did.

  1. Could you please share your experience of unity or working from 1 voice to help a large employer in your area to obtain employees for their “night shift” including the educational opportunities that you created – in other words, your UPS project?

 

Merger has given us the opportunity to provide a unified economic development approach for the community. This has strengthened Louisville’s position with major employers such as UPS. Working with UPS, the University of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we have expanded the successful Metropolitan College program that helps provide a college student workforce to assist UPS.

 

  1. You said that police, firefighters, etc. were not laid off. What positions were made redundant by the consolidation? What did the City of Louisville do for those persons who were out of a job following the consolidation?

 

  1. How were you able to NOT lay off people in the categories mentioned? Where there other layoffs?

 

In the first two budget cycles, we eliminated about 1,000 positions, including about 200 filled positions. Many of the positions that were eliminated were middle management and clerical positions. The largest reductions were in Facilities Management, Public Works, Solid Waste and Finance departments.

People who were laid off were given job counseling and placed in a “talent pool” that provided priority consideration for other job vacancies that we filled. As a result, more than half of those individuals were hired for other needed positions within city government.

Mayor Abramson placed a priority on public protection, and we have actually added jobs in police, EMS, emergency management and other areas to better serve our needs.

 

  1. Looking back, what would you have done differently to make the Election of Metro Government happen sooner?

 

The city-county compact, which was developed after the back-to-back defeat of merger referendums in the 1980s, allowed city and county governments to share the responsibility and cost of some services and stopped divisive annexation battles over citizens and their tax dollars. During the 13 years the compact was in place, many citizens gradually became more comfortable with a unified approach. It’s difficult to say whether having the compact in place earlier would have changed the timeline for eventual merger.

 

 

  1. Did you develop a severance package or accelerated retirement, etc.?

 

No. We considered such an approach, but did not ultimately pursue it because of the financial situation at the time and the considerable upfront costs associated with it.

 

  1. How did you negotiate the overlap in the top key positions?

 

Mayor Abramson developed a new management structure to oversee the combined government. He selected some of the best leaders from the former city and county governments as well as people who had not worked in local government.

 

  1. What effect has Metro Government had on annexation of suburban cities of industrial entities in unincorporated areas?

 

The merger statute provides a 12 year moratorium on annexation by suburban cities. There has not been any impact.

 

  1. Explain the process of making pre-merger election estimates of financial savings, and how accurate has these estimations been? (I think they are trying to say if you predicted the cost savings at $500,000 was the actual savings more or less?)

 

We believed that merger would give us the opportunity to run a more efficient and effective government. We did not put a price tag on the projected savings. Over the years, we have saved money in the operation of some areas, and used those savings to support services in other areas that needed additional funding.

 

  1. Have you seen any reductions or cost savings for Metro pensions and retirement plans now bankrupting most cities and towns?

 

We joined other cities and counties in Kentucky to demand reforms in the state pension laws to slow the skyrocketing increase in pension costs. The legislature enacted some changes that have helped, but pension costs are still a major challenge for local governments in Kentucky and more reforms will be needed.

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