DOWNTOWN AKRON — The Summit County Board of Elections (BOE) will receive funding for three months as county officials try to negotiate a reduced annual budget for the office for 2012.
Summit County Council voted to give the BOE the 90-day budget during its final meeting of the year Dec. 12. The previous week, during a budget hearing for the BOE, county officials expressed their disappointment at the increased budget requested by the BOE. Executive Director Ron Koehler had said the upcoming presidential election and increases in the number of absentee voters required the increase.
“This is essentially a temporary budget for the BOE through March 31,” said Brian Nelsen, director of Finance and Budget, of the nearly $1.5 million budget. “This budget really expects the board to operate as it has been. It’s unrealistic to need $9 million when the BOE has operated with a budget of $4.6 million.”
Councilman John Schmidt (D-District 2) said he thinks the use of optical scan voting machines should be reconsidered. Getting the specialized ballots printed is costly, he said.
“How long are we going to use that antiquated system in Summit County?” he asked.
Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) said her concern with the office is that it isn’t run efficiently.
Nelsen said the appropriation for three months should be sufficient for the March 6 Primary Election, which will feature county races. Another primary, scheduled for June, will be for congressional and presidential races.
But Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, said there is talk of consolidating the primaries into one primary in May or June.
“If that were to happen, we would come back to Council and reduce the temporary budget” for the BOE, Dodson said.
Shapiro asked what the next step would be in determining the BOE’s budget for the year. Dodson replied that county officials would need to sit down with the BOE’s leaders to discuss the issue.
There were no BOE staff members at the meeting. In a follow-up phone call, Koehler did not wish to comment.
In other business, Council adopted a resolution allowing county officials to work with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy on the possibility of creating a land bank in the county.
The agency’s Robin Darden Thomas said it would help county officials take a look at such a program and see if it would work in Summit County.
A land bank has been used successfully in Cuyahoga County, she added. Land banks help facilitate reclamation, rehabilitation and revitalization of vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed and other property, she said.
Dodson said the idea would be explored over the next six to 18 months. Following the study, Council could see legislation authorizing the establishment of a land bank, he said.
Council also adopted a resolution regarding the 2012 budgets for the county’s levy funded agencies — Summit County Children Services, the Board of Developmental Disabilities and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.
Council adopted on first reading an ordinance that allows Council’s deadline to adopt the annual Report on Staffing to be moved to Jan. 31, which will allow for more discussion on the document.
Not in attendance at the meeting this week were Council members Nick Kostandaras (D-District 1), Paula Prentice (D-District 8) and Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3), who were attending the County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio’s annual convention in Columbus.
Summit County Council next will meet Jan. 3 at 4:30 p.m. for its annual organizational meeting, followed by committee meetings, in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.