Press-Republican

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April 21, 2014

Franklin County lawmakers resent cost of election techs

MALONE — Franklin County has no say in Board of Election technicians’ work hours, but legislators threatened to slash the budget next year to be heard.

Plans made during budget sessions in 2012 and 2013 to reduce the workers’ hours from full- to part-time, as the commissioners wanted, didn’t happen.

And when an unanticipated $7,500 bill for a warranty on voting machines came in February, it led to renewed discussions about cutting the two voting-machine technicians to 17 hours a week from the current 35 hours.

Each is paid $26,881 as a full-timer, and both are eligible for all fringe benefits.

LEFT INTACT FOR 2014

In two previous budget years, Republican Commissioner Veronica King and Democratic Commissioner Kelly Cox agreed to the reduction as long as the techs could work full time temporarily during peak election times, such as party primaries and the general election itself.

But when the 2012 and 2013 budgets were adopted, the positions were left full time because legislators said, at the time, that extra primaries were being held.

They said they would look at it again in 2014.

The topic was covered when County Manager and Budget Officer Thomas Leitz met with the two commissioners last fall to talk about their budget, but when the 2014 county budget was adopted in December, both tech positions were left intact as full-time.

CHASTISED BY STATE

That same county budget — which narrowly passed the County Legislature by a 4-3 vote — raised taxes 5 percent with the understanding that 2 percent of that money would go into a reserve account to pay for any unanticipated expenses and budget shortfalls that might crop up during the year.

Legislators anticipated the tax hike would pay for its annual operational costs and leave about $305,000 in reserves.

Building the reserve was strongly recommended in an audit from the State Comptroller’s Office last year, which chastised legislators for spending $11 million from its reserve funds between 2009 and 2013.

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