Elections board seeks lean budget

Seneca County Board of Elections members discussed ways to decrease their funding request from the county during their meeting Wednesday.

After elections board staffers made the request for an additional $61,000 at Tuesday’s Seneca County commissioners meeting, commissioners asked for a modified budget plan, including potential annual savings. Seneca County Board of Elections Deputy Director Jim Ehrman said the information should be compiled by early next week.

Elections board member Jim Fruth said the second largest item in the budget was contract services at about $50,000.

He said Seneca County Elections Board Director Karl Erbland and Ehrman are willing to get trained and certified to eliminate some of the contract services costs. To decrease future costs, Fruth said the board needed money this year to train Ehrman and Erbland in computer programming.

“If the commissioners are unwilling to fund us so we can get the training and … get these guys certified, there’s no fat for us to trim,” Fruth said. “I don’t like that as a taxpayer. I want to be able to have us not only lean, but also I don’t want to be lean and weak at the same time.”

“We could save $15,000 to $20,000 on $6,000 worth of training, if we can get (the training) done this month,” Ehrman said.

Other training options exist, but at a higher cost, he said.

Board of Elections Chairman Charles Knight said a contractor hired for $25 an hour to train staff has saved the board money because another qualified contractor would cost $1,450 a day for the same training.

Commissioner Fred Zoeller said since the May election, the contractor has put in 49 hours of training with the board of elections.

Knight also said many other items in the budget request, including additional costs of running the election, are new, unfunded, state-mandated directives.

“We want to upgrade, we want to professionalize, and we want to make us leaner, more efficient and more fiscally responsible to the taxpayers,” Fruth said.

Zoeller said the previous board of elections got the job done and he hopes the current board will continue to improve.

In other business, Knight said the elections board continues to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The board’s space in the County Services Building is not handicapped accessible. The board has been considering options, including moving to space at the Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services, which is located outside the city limits.

“At some point, they’re going to say ‘Do it now, we don’t care what it costs you,'” Knight said. “But we’ll keep buying time.”

Zoeller said temporary modifications should be made as other options are researched. Knight said the board is to invite representatives from the Secretary of State’s office to visit the current office and other polling stations that are ADA non-compliant.

In another matter, the board accepted the petition for Dave Sauber to be an independent candidate for county commissioner on the November ballot.