By CYNTHIA WELCH, Sandusky resident
I am a tax-paying resident of the city of Sandusky and I would like to state how very displeased I am with the city commissioners' decision to hire an engineering director consultant (John Hancock) at a part-time salary of $90,000 a year. Not only is the salary outrageous to begin with, it's money the city implied it didn't have when it laid off seven city employees within the two weeks prior to hiring Mr. Hancock.
I do not have an issue with Mr. Hancock. I am sure he is a qualified professional. My issue is with creating and hiring for the position. The combined salaries of the last two people laid off are less than Mr. Hancock's part-time salary. The Sandusky Register reported Commissioner Waddington said after the layoffs (and prior to Mr. Hancock's hiring) that the city's finances still worry him.
In the current economy where banks are failing, automakers are filing bankruptcy, a lot of people can't find a job, foreclosures run rampant because people can't pay their mortgages, and people get arrested for picking up the slack because the city of Sandusky is "shorthanded," I highly disapprove of laying off current employees "to make room in the budget" and then turning around and hiring someone for a part-time position that pays more than at least two of those previous salaries combined.
I went down to city hall May 29 and requested the procedure to have my city income taxes escrowed. I work a full-time professional job for one-quarter of Mr. Hancock's salary. I have a mortgage to pay, family to feed, bills to pay and all the other concerns that I'm sure the laid-off employees also have, although now they must depend on unemployment. I have no problem paying my taxes, although I do not want my hard-earned money funneled into Mr. Hancock's pocket when I don't agree with the creation of his position or his salary. I started off at the finance department who sent me to the commissioners' office.
The commissioners' office sent me to the law department and the law department sent me back to the finance department. No one knew how to handle my request, so over the weekend I acquired the e-mail addresses of all the commissioners, the city manager, law director and the finance director and sent a mass e-mail explaining my position and requesting the proper procedure to escrow my taxes.
I received a response from the finance director requesting that I call him because his office handles the taxes. I called and spoke with Mr. Widman and he said he would look into the situation and see what he could find out. On June 2 I received this e-mailed reply (emphasis added):
"Per the numerous public officials I have contacted at the municipal, county, regional and state levels, there is no process available which would not cost you additional expenses of penalty, interest and court costs.
As an illustration, if you were to escrow your tax liability after filing your required annual tax return, you would need to earn a significant interest rate.
The following costs would be incurred over a period of time for not paying your tax liability:
n 10 percent penalty on unpaid income taxes
n 1.5 percent interest for each month the taxes remain unpaid
n $61 court cost when the city takes you to court because you have not paid your taxes
n $100 court cost when the city garnishes your wages when you have not satisfied the judgement to the city in the previous step
If you have additional questions on this matter please respond to the e-mail or telephone my office at 419-627-5890"
As you can imagine, I was highly upset to find out that I, as a taxpayer and resident, have no recourse or process available to address my concerns. If I pay my taxes, my hard-earned money goes to Mr. Hancock. If I don't pay, I get sued by the city and incur significant penalties as well.
I think it's ironic that a tenant can escrow their monthly rent if they have an issue with their landlord and their rent is not considered "unpaid". If I escrow my income tax, it's considered "unpaid" and I get fined and sued. The city of Sandusky is operating like an Authoritarian Government wherein an everyday citizen has "no process available" to challenge or complain about the government's decisions without being treated like a criminal.
Upon receipt of Mr. Widman's reply, I replied to the e-mail with all the commissioners and city manager included and advised them of my significant displeasure with their performance and that I feel like their decision is spitting in the faces of the 7 employees they laid off as well as in the face of every hard-working resident of the city of Sandusky who is struggling to pay their bills but still have to pay their income taxes so that the city can pay Mr. Hancock's outrageous salary.
The city manager felt the need to reply to an e-mail from a former city resident living in Seattle, Washington regarding Mr. Hamilton's arrest for mowing the grass in Central Park and explaining the city's position whereas I, a current city resident, have yet to receive a reply or response from the city manager or a single city commissioner regarding my issue.