homepage logo

Election fund in need of cash

By Staff | Feb 17, 2010

CHARLES TOWN – Extra cash may be needed to help finance Jefferson County’s upcoming primary election.

Documents show that the Jefferson County Clerk’s elections budget as a whole already has outpaced total projected expenditures by $31,873 for the current fiscal year, with one line item in particular costing more than seven times what was initially expected.

County Clerk Jennifer Maghan said the issue involves referendums that took place in late 2009, because they had not been scheduled when the budget was drafted early last year.

In November, residents headed to the polls to determine whether a new zoning ordinance should be put in place in the county. A second election was held the following month to determine whether table games should be permitted at Charles Town Races & Slots.

Some of those costs are expected to soon be reimbursed to the office, though Maghan said additional money still will be needed to cover the county’s next election, which will take place in May.

“We’re going to have to go ahead and put more money into the budget for the primary,” she said Tuesday.

For the current fiscal year, county officials had budgeted $153,343 for the county’s elections and related expenses. Documents show $185,080 in funding already has been spent.

Mark Schiavone, who manages the county’s budget, said the office could soon be brought out of the red. He said a budget revision is slated to be approved later this week. That revision is expected to incorporate funds that were reimbursed for December’s table games referendum. Charles Town Races & Slots was required by state law to pay nearly $89,000 for the special election.

Even so, funds could be too low.

“We’ll still be short in some categories,” Maghan said. “It’s definitely going to take more money.”

Maghan said the upcoming primary will likely cost the county between $100,000 and $130,000.

“Elections are expensive to run,” she said.

Numerous part-time employees are hired to help in the process, she noted. Their price tag adds up, and the line item for these individuals’ pay is over budget by more than any other line item in the department.

Poll workers who staff the county’s precincts are paid $300 a piece per election. Supply clerks are provided $350 per election for their services. Individuals who help out during early voting periods also are compensated at a rate of $10 per hour.

The office’s part-time helpers have cost $101,257.50 so far this fiscal year according to county budget documents, surpassing the $14,000 that was budgeted for the workers.

Maghan said the part-time workers have cost more than previously expected because the office was not anticipating having the additional elections. The elections office had planned on having a “clean up the records year,” not one that was filled with numerous referendums, she said. It was for this reason that her office initially requested a lower amount of money for this line item, she said.

Some members of the Jefferson County Commission say they are concerned about the situation, including Commissioner Patsy Noland.

Noland said she wants the commission to further discuss the matter with Maghan to find out how the budget got so out of kilter.

“The first thing I’m going to do is find out why there is such a discrepancy and why her budget is so out of line. Obviously it’s a serious situation,” Noland said. “I don’t know why her budget was allowed to get to the point that it is.”

The line item for part-time extra help represents one of four areas where the elections budget is out of step with projections. Travel and insurance also outpaced budgeted expenditures. Equipment and building rentals have cost more than projected in the initial budget as well. Documents show that the elections division spent $23,077 on rentals, as opposed to the $12,500 that was budgeted.