The county government needs enough revenue to provide essential services, but we must always be aware that this money comes from you, the taxpayer. I am a supporter of limits on the government's taxing power, such as the revenue cap that we have in place in Wicomico County. During the 2017 budget session, the county council worked together to reduce the executive's budget request so we could find a way to reduce property taxes. While I was very glad to see us cut the property tax rate last year, the council needs to continue working to lower the tax burden on county residents.
According to the Salisbury Independent, during my time on the council I have been "especially outspoken on budget matters." When we came into office in 2014, the county budget was $127.7 million. Our most recent approved budget is $144.9 million. That is a 13.5% increase over the past four years. Even in light of the spending increases, the county has been able to put money in its reserves because revenue has also been increasing. However, I am still very uncomfortable with this large spending increase. Your elected officials need to be prudent watchdogs of your tax money. There are still many areas of county government where spending is not effective or needed. Every year during budget deliberations, I have offered amendments to the executive's budget to trim spending. If elected to a second term, I will continue scrutinizing the budget and providing oversight into how we are spending your tax dollars.
With two children in public schools, I am invested in seeing that our students are receiving a quality education. The council has worked closely with the Wicomico County Board of Education over the past four years to discuss issues of concern to the community and ensure that the tax dollars we provide to the schools are spent wisely. No one can deny that there is an improved relationship between the board and the council. We have supported much-needed education projects. One of those was the re-building of West Salisbury Elementary, which we approved only after working with the board to reduce the cost of the project to county taxpayers.
Unfortunately, too much of the discussion over education focuses on the inputs to the system and not enough on the outputs that come out of the system. That is, we debate a lot about the money going into the schools, but fail to focus enough on the quality of education being produced. I am excited about some of Dr. Hanlin's new ideas. She has brought much-needed change to the schools. I am happy to support measures that produce better results from our education system.
Thanks to the efforts of the council and our legislative delegation, the people of Wicomico County now have another way to ensure that their voice is heard in the education system: an elected school board. At the local level, we worked on a proposal that would give voters the chance to decide if they wanted to keep the old way of selecting the school board, where the governor appointed members, or move to an elected or partially-elected board. Through public hearings and numerous work sessions, we developed an idea that our legislative delegation then worked to pass in Annapolis. This led to the 2016 ballot question that asked voters to choose how our school board should be selected. There had been discussions for decades about whether Wicomico County voters should be able to decide on an elected school board. The council played a key role in making this happen in 2016.