I am writing to inform the voters of Hamilton County “how the sausage was made” for the 2020 county budget of almost $100 million of taxpayer money.
After spending two full days in session planning, negotiating and adjusting our budget, the county council motioned and passed the suspension of its own rules to revisit the budget that was already completed and sent for public review. I’m not sure that’s even possible, but it happened. Why go through the trouble of two days of intense budget meetings when you turn around shortly thereafter and change it at the public hearing? When you must circumvent your own rules to get something done, doesn’t that, by definition, give you pause for concern over what you are about to do? If not, it should.
Second, singling out one county employee for their very own “special pay raise” is a big insult to all county employees who were turned down for raises and those who work just as hard but were denied the 14 percent bump that was passed by the council for the coroner. Certainly, some employees could consider the extreme steps taken to be discriminatory because they were not singled out or treated with the same vigor to get their very own special pay increase, too. As a business owner, I see the complete disregard for process and standard employee protocols as setting a risky precedent and creating liability for the county from those employees who feel slighted, as well as future employees who will undoubtedly cite “you did it before for that person, it’s my turn, I work just as hard as he did.” Further, it’s an insult to the other elected officials who work hard and wanted their compensation increased but were denied that increase during the actual budget process. Councilman Schwartz pontificated on and on about how he cares deeply for and values all county employees as they are the backbone of the county. Then, in a complete demonstration of hypocrisy, singles out one and makes the motion to give this one employee, his friend, special treatment. The county employees are smart and see his actions. This one act of specialized treatment flies in the face of supporting all the hardworking county employees. Schwartz’s actions scream much louder than his political rhetoric.
Third, councilman Schwartz must be held to account. This budget alone, he voted to increase his own pay. He voted for a pay increase for his son. He motioned, lobbied for, spearheaded and voted for a 14 percent pay increase for his friend the coroner (down from the 30 percent pay increase he first insisted on). He voted for the addition of three new, paid county employees at a cost of $200,000 to the taxpayers. Is it just me, or does anyone else see the repeated pattern of behavior here from Mr. Schwartz? Where does he stop spending the taxpayer’s money? In my opinion, Hamilton County District 3 was not represented. Mr. Schwartz, along with his family and friends, came out of the 2020 budget process feeling great with their wallets heavier. The taxpayers he represents in District 3 paid the freight. The people must hold the council to account and particularly those who do not spend taxpayer money wisely.
If “we the people” don’t pause, pay attention and demand different execution from our elected officials, this gets progressively worse and we will end up with crushing debt. Hamilton County is a wonderful place to live. It took decades of hard work to get us where we are. It takes harder work (fiscal responsibility) to keep our piece of heaven wonderful. We the people must at least pay attention. The responsibility of overseeing 100 million taxpayer dollars comes with accountability.
Mark Hall, Noblesville