From Fiscal Year 2010 to Fiscal Year 2020, Anne Arundel County’s total general fund budget grew from $1.18 million to $1.69 million. That’s nearly 36% growth.
Meanwhile, in 2009, the median household income in Anne Arundel County (adjusted for inflation) was $91,968 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2018 (the latest year data is available), the median household income in Anne Arundel County was $99,652 (Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation).
That’s growth of 8%. This means Anne Arundel County government has increased spending 4.5 times faster than your income grew. Based on these numbers, I believe we can all agree on this - the way the county spends your money matters. I also think we can all agree that we want to put an end to wasteful spending, fraud and abuse. To that point, I have been working over the last few months on this issue and have learned some good news and some bad news.
The good news - one of the key ways to oversee county spending already exists. The framers of our county’s charter intended for there to be legislative oversight of the executive branch. That’s why they created a county auditor, appointed by the county council, to act as the fiscal watchdog of county spending.
The bad news - the county auditor is severely limited by our county charter in how she can do this job. Fortunately, I have a solution.
I have proposed Resolution 36-19 to give the auditor more access to the executive branch’s records, allow; the auditor to investigate allegations of waste, fraud and abuse; and enable the auditor to conduct financial and performance audits of any department or agency receiving county funding.
These ideas were previously proposed by the last county council. Four council members (one Republican and three Democrats) voted to pass them (Resolutions 50-16 and 26-18). However, without five votes required to pass charter amendments, they failed.
The executive branch has the day-to-day decision-making power through hiring, purchasing and personnel management. Without more information, the county auditor is forced to take the executive’s word that things are being managed appropriately. That’s not oversight, it’s a rubber stamp. Resolution 36-19 is a solution to this overdue problem in our county charter.
In addition to rooting out government waste, I am also working to create more oversight and transparency in county government. I have proposed another charter amendment, 37-19, that will give the county council confirmation authority over the county executive’s appointees for county attorney, police chief and fire chief. These three department heads are unique several ways: a) the county attorney is the lawyer for both the county executive and the county council, and b) the police chief and fire chief are important, visible faces of public safety in our community. Their positions, and their importance in interfacing with citizens on a daily basis in some of the most crucial moments, are significant. This makes it vital that the county council has a chance to review and approve these appointments to ensure the right people are representing our county.
Having already received bipartisan support both on the council and by the county executive’s administration, I am optimistic that both of these long overdue and necessary charter resolutions will be approved by the county council. After that, I ask that you review and support them when they appear on the ballot in the next election. Thank you for your consideration.