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February 21, 2024

In what appears to have become another episode of The Days Of Our Lives in Wicomico County, the Wicomico County Council, and County Executive Julie Giordano find themselves locked in a disagreement over a substantial surplus of taxpayer dollars and its intended use for county improvement projects.

At the core of this divide is a $74 million surplus revealed by Director of Finance Pam Oland.  Oland explained that the surplus is largely attributable to increased tax collections and an unexpected surge in interest rates. 

Having grown to $94 million between 2022 and 2023, not including the rainy day fund, the bounty presents a unique opportunity - and a point of contention.

Giordano believes in utilizing the $7 million accumulated in unexpected interest revenue to forward capital projects, including roadworks and recreational amenities. She envisions citizens' tax dollars being reinvested in the community, addressing practical needs like pothole repairs, maintenance issues at the Civic Center and various other much-needed improvements around the county. 

"There are roads that need to be paved," she insists, advocating for taxpayer money to serve its intended purpose, not to "sit in a bank account."

On the opposite side of the boardroom, Wicomico County Council President John Cannon remains skeptical. Cannon disagreed and does not feel there is a need or urgency to expedite these projects, suggesting a more measured approach. 

"I don't feel the need to rush," he asserts, as a rebuttal to the request by the County Executive's office.

Giordano explained that "rain is pouring into the Civic Center right now", as just one of many examples of the needs to be completed now, rather than wait until later.

The proposed budget amendment calls for $5.6 million to be spent on community assets encompassing boat ramps, marina upgrades, playground improvements, enhanced security lighting at parks, and various infrastructure advancements - all without dipping into the main budget, thanks to the unexpected interest windfall.

Giordano's frustration was palpable as she challenged the council, stressing the importance of deploying surplus funds promptly to avoid cost escalation. Giordano continued by stating, "I think I must be misinterpreting how government works because we collect tax dollars and our citizens expect us to put it back in the community in the best way possible."

She also questioned the Council's reluctance to acknowledge the financial gains as a strategic success under her leadership, which Cannon countered by labeling as an oversight instead of a calculated decision.

Despite the potential for $1.4 million to remain even after these projects are funded, clear divisions persist. 

Giordano directly addressed Council members, seeking to dismantle a majority front with Cannon, the dialogue underscored the broader debate on the power to release the funds versus the community investment.

With council meetings poised to host subsequent discussions on the matter, the community will now wait to see if a resolution can be made that will either deploy the surplus funds towards immediate improvements or possibly see them reserved for future uncertainties. 

What is your opinion on this? Do you agree with County Executive Julie Giordano and want to see the tax dollars go back into the county, or do you agree with the County Council, who wants to let it sit in a account and not be used?