Towns pay debt, but not without protest

The Town of Colonie became the last remaining municipality to pay its debt to Albany County for 2006 election costs last week, but, along with three other municipalities, the payment was not made without question.

According to Kerri Battle, spokeswoman for Albany County Executive Michael Breslin, the county had been waiting for payment for 2006 elections from Colonie, Bethlehem, Guilderland and Rennselaerville, and had to send out a notice requiring the municipalities to pay immediately.

One of the reasons the municipalities were among the last to pay the county was that they were not sure the amount they were being charged was the amount they should have to pay, said Bethlehem Supervisor John Cunningham.

Cunningham said the actual cost of operating the 2006 election in Bethlehem was $55,260, but the town was being asked to pay $79,425.41 to the county. This was because the county divided the 2006 election costs among all of the municipalities in the county based on tax assessment.

In the Town of Guilderland, Supervisor Ken Runion estimated the town typically spends about $50,000 on elections and was charged $85,057.46 to the county for 2006.

While the exact figure for Colonie was unavailable for 2006, Director of Town Operations Peter Gannon said the town typically spends about $110,000 on elections. Colonie was charged $214,532.97 for the 2006 elections.

Changes made to bring the state into compliance with the 2002 federally mandated Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, led to the county taking over the local election process. Prior to HAVA, municipalities were required to fund all elements of elections on their own in their annual budget. After HAVA, the counties were asked to take on some of the responsibilities of the elections and charge the municipalities for the service.

Two of the biggest responsibilities that are charged back to the town by the county, according to Cunningham, include the rented space in which the elections are held and the payment of the county clerks who work the election polls.

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