Election costs concern leaders

Frustration continues to mount among town officials over increased election costs resulting from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), and a meeting called by county executive Michael Breslin to foster an open line of communication has resulted in even more questions.

To comply with the HAVA guidelines, Albany County will take control of the election process in municipalities countywide, but much of the added costs will be charged back to the towns.

This looks to me like a massive act of inefficiency, said Guilderland Supervisor Ken Runion, whose town will be facing $275,000 in election charges. "There should be another method of putting this plan together to conduct elections."

A letter last fall from Breslin to all municipal leaders stated election costs would be based on population. A sec-ond letter from Breslin last month said the election charges would be based on each town's assessed valuation.

"The 2005 letter that said the charges are based on population is incorrect," said Breslin. "It should have never been suggested it would be based on population."

The new formula is based on a recommendation by county attorney Kristina Burns and her interpretation of opinions provided by the state comptroller's office.

"Assessed valuation is the appropriate method and rather straightforward," said Burns.

Not according to Colonie legislator Paulette Barlette, R-Latham, who said she believes the new charge back is nothing more than a user fee to tax-payers.

"Assessed valuation of property has nothing to do with it," said Barlette. "Many businesses included in the assessment do not live in Colonie and are not registered voters in Colonie."

Bethlehem Supervisor Theresa Egan said the $267,000 price tag for her town's election costs represents a 19% tax increase in the town's general fund to cover the costs.

"The costs keep rolling down the hill, and now you are now talking to the butt end of the hill," said Egan.

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