Vanguard Looks At Increasing Election Costs

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Tonight, the Davis School Board will most likely vote to pass an election consolidation measure which will move school board elections to the November General Elections as opposed to the current arrangement of the November Election in odd years.

The overriding factor here is cost and the rising cost imposed on the school district by the County has made this move necessary. Because the other districts in the county have already moved their elections to even years, the school district would have to bear full cost of running an election.

Last year that cost rose to $585,622 for the 2007 election county-wide. It is unlikely that the district would have to pay that full amount and estimate suggest closer to the $300,000, but part of that will depend on increasing costs from the county which if they continue at the current rate, could push the cost much higher.

DJUSD officials were stunned in February for instance when they got the bill for the November 2007 and found it to be $155,420, a more than three-fold increase over the 2005 election. Far more than they budgeted.

The Vanguard now takes a closer at these rising costs. The first graph and chart show the increasing costs for running elections since 2000.

In 2003, the total cost was $88,000 of which DJUSD bore $52,000. That cost rose to $319,000 in 2005, remember in 2005 was the Governor’s initiatives and Measure X, as a result, even with the rising cost, DJUSD only paid $47,000. That changed in 2007 when the cost increased by a huge order of magnitude. County-wide it was just under $600,000 of which Davis paid over $150,000.

These increases were somewhat baffling since the cost of doing business may have gone up, but certainly not by half a million over four years.

When we examine the breakdown of the costs we get a far better picture of what is going on.

In 2003, the county only passed on a fraction of the costs to local jurisdictions. The biggest costs were all direct costs for running the election. The county charged $46,000 for its printing and $15,000 for its election night staff. A small portion of that cost was $10,000 to staff and salaries.

In order to highlight the changes, I have color coded the changes for 2005 and 2007. Coded in blue are huge increases in cost from 2003 to 2005 and coded in red are huge increases in cost from 2005 to 2007.

What we see in 2005 is largely what appears to be a fuller bearing of election night costs from the county to the jurisdictions holding election. So you have a huge increase in the cost of election night staff, printing, postage, and drayage (the cost of trucking the polling equipment around). One exception was a nearly seven-fold increase in the cost of staff salaries and wages.

In 2007, we see that trend continue, but now they are asking local jurisdiction to bear what appear to be fixed costs. There was an increase in drayage costs, but the other increases were mainly fixed costs with the exception of extra help salaries, wages, and overtime which the county charged for the first time.

But you see now $154,800 in staff salaries and $58,000 in benefits. Overtime appears to be an additional cost. But you have over $200,000 in costs passed on to the local jurisdictions for what appears to be normal operating costs to the election’s office. It is hard to evaluate the line for indirect election costs, also a new line for 2007.

What appears to be happening is that with the county facing revenue problems, they have simply passed along the costs to other jurisdictions. That seems reasonable. But they are making those jurisdictions that utilize specific services that year bare the full costs of running the department, costs that would be incurred regardless of whether or not they held an election.

The consequence has been to force most jurisdictions into the general election where the costs are shared across jurisdictions, but for Davis this comes at a cost.

Board Member Richard Harris adamantly believes that it is wrong to vote to extend his term. I do not agree with him fully on this issue, but he clearly feels very strongly about it, strongly enough that it appears he will resign after his fourth year. The county’s revenue crunch appears to be the culprit here, but the cost-bearing apparatus should be examined.

Perhaps a more equitable distribution of costs would be a more fair way to go. After all, the elections office will still operate in 2009 with its basic staffing level regardless of what DJUSD decides to do here. So the question as to why they should pass along fixed costs to DJUSD seems appropriate? Perhaps this is something that should be more closely evaluated.

Earlier this week, the County Clerk’s Office announced the hiring a new chief deputy, Andrea Jones, who had previously worked as Supervisor Mariko Yamada’s chief deputy. The position had been open it appears for at least six months, meaning that the election’s office functioned through the highest turnout election in recent years without someone filling this position. Given the cost cutting mode of the county and given the new policies by the County Clerk’s office, perhaps, this position would have been better off staying vacant. After all, is there not a basic hiring freeze in place in the county, and if there is not, shouldn’t there be?

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 thoughts on “Vanguard Looks At Increasing Election Costs”

  1. Anonymous

    Agree and thanks DPD. What was the reason for 7x increase in staff salaries, or was that just passing through the cost? The Clerks office does more than elections so do not see why daily costs of staff should be borne by voters…..No mention of mail voting cost comparisons or why we can't have that or what we need to do TO have the choice to do them…?and as far as new deputy, agree and this seems similar to the salary issue of Bruce Colby and the other 2 staff which the Board will decide tonight……

  2. Rich Rifkin

    …I suspect we would not get better representation in the clerk-recorder's office if we paid quite a bit less in salary….Oops. I intended to say just the opposite: …I suspect we would not get worse representation in the clerk-recorder's office if we paid quite a bit less in salary….

  3. Anonymous

    …a salary of approximately $117,200; a PERS contribution for her pension of approximately $16,400; the county's share of her Social Security and Medicare of $14,100; and medical, dental, and vision care benefits of approximately $20,200….Someone who makes $117,200 a year should not get …medical, dental, and vision care benefits of approximately $20,200…. That's ridiculous!!! If she is making $10,000 per month, let her buy her own freaking medical and dental and vision care!!! YC is supposed to help the poor. Let the poor people have that money so they can see a doctor or a nurse when they're sick. Freddie and the other overpaid pols are getting too much to call it public service.

  4. Peoples Vanguard rea

    lol…10:36 pm says, …because of your stupid blog….lol….so stupid that he / she logs on an blogs.David, I gotta hand it to you buddy. I love reading the Vanguard and read it every day several times a day. What always makes me laugh is that your critics love you so much that even when they hate you or something you wrote about they have to log on to let you know about it. They love to tell you how much they hate your blog, but they just can't stay away.Isn't there a word for this?Regardless, keep up the great work. The People's Vanguard is the reason we know what is going on around Davis and Yolo County.

  5. black bart

    Rifkin had it right the first time when he claimed we couldn't get better help for less money in the elections office. It is amazing that this blog consistantly attacks working people. Could t be you guys are simply jealous of those who make a decent salary and can afford to provide for themselves without the beneficence of their families.

  6. Opposing viewpoint

    The Vanguard is just a guy at his computer with an opinion on everything, but not necessarily informed. Criticism of the Vanguard is appropriate when he considers his stories …reporting… when in reality he weaves his opinion with selective investigation into stories to simply support his preconceived opinion.This is a fascinating comment. I have to disgree with you, as someone who generally disagrees with this blog, I think the blogger is pretty well informed, he seems to have pretty good sources, I disagree with his conclusions. I find myself learning far more from reading this, even as I disagree, than I do reading other supposedly more objective sources of information.You accuse him of weaving his opinion into articles that are selectively constructed to reach his own opinion, that is the basic blog model. What I find interesting is that the blog model seems a more honest representation of journalism in general, all of which do that under the guise of objectivity. The blogger here doesn't pretend objectivity. He is upfront about his bias. You know where he is coming from and yet he is able to inform the community, many of whom disagree with him.Honestly, what is your objection to this particular article?

  7. David M. Greenwald

    The county used to pick up the costs, then they passed through the election costs, now they are passing through it appears their entire operating costs.Yeah I didn’t want to get into the mail issue since that will require legislative action. I would like to know what the costs are, but it would appear to be more costly if the county really is going to pass through the operating costs of the office to the school district.

  8. Freddie

    Did you forget to mention that the implementation of the federal Help America Vote Act meant the County had to entirely replace it's old voting system and go to a new system that requires about 200 thousand dollars in annual licensing and two full time IT managers to operate and takes four times as long to count the votes? We only pass through the costs permitted by law. We had a cost study & analysis done in 2006 and discovered that we were paying for stuff that the jurisdictions we serve should be paying. We gave the schools a big break in 2007. Now everybody has to pay their fair share. None of the schools have suggested that we are gouging. We are one of the few counties in California that didn't have to junk our new system and start over after the Secretary of State's top-to-bottom review. We plan to STAY in compliance, hence the new deputy. Believe me, we don't want to go to the taxpayers for an "extra" 3.5 million dollars because we get crossways with the SoS.These cost increases are terrifying and are exactly the same all over the state of California. It doesn't make us any happier than it makes you.

  9. One wonders...

    Thank you for covering this story David. It’s amazing how many government agencies cry, …we need money,… and then go out and spend money. Just like households across America county departments and city departments need to tighten their spending. Additionally, they need to be held accountable.The clerk said that they plan to stay in compliance which is why she hired a deputy. Does this mean that the County Clerk was not in compliance prior to the hiring of a deputy? Why hire a deputy now when the county is strapped for money???This position has been vacant for quite some time and the department has functioned well. Why now?Is it because the person hired as deputy needs a place to go now that her boss has been elected to the Assembly?Is this a political favor being carried out similar to political favors in Illinois? One wonders.

  10. Anonymous

    To 3:41 comment:It is a bit ironic that this position has been open for so long, and now when the person is leaving her other position, it becomes available or ‘needed’. I believe Freddy is of high integrity and would ask that she explain the timing and the need at this time…..??

  11. Anonymous

    If you think Freddie Oakley is honest and integritous, perhaps you should ask her how big her paycheck is. I wouldn’t be surprised if her paycheck has absorbed part of this huge jump in county …costs….ps. If this is part of public records, I want to see receipts and a money trail. How much does Freddie Oakley get paid? I think we should have the right to know. This has nothing to do with transferring costs from one governmental entity to another. This is clearly another example of the corruption and greed in Yolo County. Why have the costs increased so significantly (ie. mailings and photocopies.)I don’t care how much supplies have risen, the cost hasn’t tripled or quadrupled. The personal paychecks and bank accounts have tripled and quadrupled. If we give these various government agencies carte blanche to reem the tax payers, they will do so indeed.

  12. Rich Rifkin

    If you think Freddie Oakley is honest and integritous, perhaps you should ask her how big her paycheck is.1) …Integritous… is not a word. You should try honorable here.2) Mrs. Oakley does not set her own salary; and I doubt she has lobbied for more money or politicked to increase the remuneration of her position. I suspect she simply has accepted what the Board of Supervisors* has decided what is fair pay for that position. Therefore, I cast no blame whatsoever on Mrs. Oakley’s honor for taking home the money that comes with her title. The voters of Yolo County have said she has done a good job by re-electing her.3) Nonetheless, using David’s chart of salaries for 2007, I figure Mrs. Oakley’s salary plus benefits cost the taxpayers about $168,000 in 2008. That includes a salary of approximately $117,200; a PERS contribution for her pension of approximately $16,400; the county’s share of her Social Security and Medicare of $14,100; and medical, dental, and vision care benefits of approximately $20,200. We also cover the life insurance and accidental death costs for all elected officials in Yolo County.I have no idea if this is a fair deal for the taxpayers. However, I suspect we would not get better representation in the clerk-recorder’s office if we paid quite a bit less in salary; and required this job (and all other county employees) to pay the employee’s share of their PERS contribution. Making that one change would save the county millions of dollars every year overnight.* Mrs. Oakley was for a time a county supervisor. I don’t know if, when she held that office, she voted to increase the money paid to the elected clerk or recorder.

  13. Anonymous

    ……Vanguard……? Everywhere I look on this blog, except for the advertised bumper stickers, …People’s Vanguard… has disappeared. Why not just be honest, acknowledge most of your readers are lawyers, politicos of various stripes, and the affluent in general and take …People’s… off the bumper stickers too?

  14. wdf

    Why not just be honest, acknowledge most of your readers are lawyers, politicos of various stripes, and the affluent in general and take …People’s… off the bumper stickers too?I’m not a lawyer, not a politico beyond the fact that I read this blog, and I’ve never considered myself affluent.I don’t see how I’m represented in your statement.What income level would you define as affluent in Davis?On what basis do you determine the demographics of this blog’s readership?

  15. Anonymous

    ……I’m not sure why this is being read as a criticism of Freddie, ……Because of your stupid blog …Does that even make sense? I too fail to see how this is necessarily a criticism of Freddie Oakley. One immediate question would be how much control she has given the resources at her disposal.

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