County proposes shifting charges

County Executive Michael Breslin, D-Delmar, will ask legislators in his upcoming budget proposal to shift the burden of compliance with federal voting reforms off the shoulders of taxpayers and back on county coffers.

Last month, area municipal leaders came out in opposition to the county's proposal to pass down more than $1.8 million in mandates as it looks to come into compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Instead, Breslin is proposing that municipalities pay a total of $615,300 for Election Day expenses related to staffing, transportation, space rental and insurance for new electronic machines. Of that, Colonie would pay approximately $221,500, down from the $680,416 that was originally proposed.

The county would pay the remaining balance of $1,265,266.

Under new HAVA regulations, towns will pay the county for voting services, as Albany takes the reins for voting operations throughout its 12 towns and cities by November 2007. Previously, the towns were responsible for overseeing the voting process. The amount charged back to the municipalities is based on a town or city's taxable value.

Through HAVA, a legislative reaction to the 2000 presidential election ballot debacle in Florida, states were required to enact new voting guidelines. The state Board of Elections handed down a number of mandates to the counties. One such mandate was that all counties would be responsible for elections. No money was made available to help implement the directive.

I'm pleased it has gone down as much as it has, but I still question the methodology, said Colonie Supervisor Mary Brizzell.

Under the old proposal, Colonie, with more than $7 billion in taxable properties, would have paid 36 percent, or $680,416 of the county tab. Brizzell said she is opposed to the county's method of charging back to its municipalities using the taxable value method, which would remain as part of Breslin's most recent proposal.

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