"She's made some misstatements regarding my record on the school board," Carson said. "She thought I was responsible for a $2 million deficit last year and that's not accurate. I haven't been on the school board for two years."
Carson was on the school board from 2003 to 2010. Though the board members had difficult budgeting issues while she was on there, Carson said they managed to balance the budget through a combination of cuts and using the reserve funds. In fact, she said, it's illegal to operate at a deficit.
"In June, the school board did pass a budget that included a tax raise," Carson said. "We always had that option available to us, but we chose not to raise taxes during those years because we knew there were many people in the community who weren't in a position to have a tax raise."
But Smith insists that during Carson's years on the school board, she put the school board on a path of spending that was unsustainable and eventually caused the tax increase.
"It would be a disaster to have this kind of thinking at the county level," Smith said. "We have to learn to live within our means and do baseline budgeting. We have to start with our revenues rather than try to spend every dime that comes in."
Smith called herself a very fiscally responsible person and says she will be fighting that every county dollar gets used prudently in the county.
"We need to look at this budget carefully and decide where we can cut fat," Smith said. "What departments are being duplicated? We have places we can cut and shift funds and we are not doing it."
Organizations such as the Peace House and Friends of Animals should not be financially supported by the government, but by the community, Smith said.
"I think if we're going to give money to Friends of Animals, if we're going to give money to charitable organizations, it can't be at the expense of roads," Smith said. "It can't be at the expense of police officers. It can't be at the expense of county employees who are there trying to do their jobs."
Smith acknowledged the Friends of Animals and road maintenance funds for Service Area #6 and the Municipal Fund come out of different county budgets, but said there are too many pockets of money in the county.
Carson said she has met with almost every department within the county and she doesn't see how fat can be cut without cutting positions. She also wondered about Smith's positions in areas other than the budget.
"I don't know what her ideas are for planning for growth," Carson said. "I've talked to some of the mayors and the Chamber of Commerce regarding economic sustainability and development on both sides of the county. I want to look at how we can support our current businesses and help them to not only survive but thrive."
Carson also said she hadn't heard anything from Smith about her views on sustainability, but said she herself is a strong supporter of the county's sustainability plan.
Smith acknowledged she is focusing primarily on the budget, but she also stressed her willingness to listen.
"I think one of the best things I bring to the table is that I listen," Smith said. "I really do listen to what the people want. I get into the trenches and talk to people. Not just the ones at the top or the most vocal, but if you start having conversations with people, you can find out what they really want."
And that's where Smith and Carson have common ground.
"I think it's important as an elected official to listen to what my constituents are saying and what our budget priorities should be," Carson said. "I'm still walking neighborhoods and getting out and meeting people, attending County Council and Planning Commission meetings on both sides of the county when I can. So hopefully when I'm elected I can be prepared, which is why I'm investing the time in that now. It will help me to really understand the issues."