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County election funds running dry

Crawford County may not have the money to pay for upcoming elections.

Kenneth Chitwood, head of the Crawford County Election Commission, addressed the Crawford County Quorum Court about a lack of funds during its regular monthly meeting Monday night.

According to Chitwood, the commission only has about $28,000 left in its budget, enough to cover the upcoming school board elections and the Alma special election on Aug. 12.

“But I don’t feel we’ll be able to make it on this amount for the November elections,” Chitwood told the Crawford County justices of the peace.

Money from the election commission mainly goes to programming for digital ballots and poll workers, and the commission is usually reimbursed by cities, school districts and the state for much of the costs.

Bill Taylor is the second of three who sit on the election commission, along with Chitwood and Bruce Coleman.

According to Taylor, every other year the election commission has a budget of up to about $150,000 for elections.

During the county’s budgeting session for 2014, in an effort to cut costs and divert more money into the general fund, the commission’s budget was cut by about $60,000, Taylor said.

That money was categorized as anticipated revenue and appropriated for use, Taylor said.

While the commission will be reimbursed for the school elections and the Alma special election, the money won’t come in time to pay for the November general election - and would likely not be enough to cover the cost, even if it did, Chitwood said.

“We’re going to need some funding,” Coleman said.

Though the commissioners did not have exact tabulations for election costs, they estimate they need another $60,000 to pay for the remaining elections, based on the cost for the May primary and any possible runoff elections.

When questioned by JPs about cutting their costs, Taylor answered that they have lowered pay to poll workers from $120 to $100, and also have cut some workers.

Commissioners are also considering combining some of the smaller, lower turnout precincts so that they will be voting at the same poll site as a way to cut back, Chitwood said.

At the request of the quorum court, commissioners agreed to work with JP Mary Blount, head of the budget committee, to bring an exact number before court in August.

JP Lloyd Cole gave the quorum court an update on the jail and its proposed location. The county is still waiting on core sample results and possibly another study before they can go ahead with the land purchase.

Cole asked JPs to consider purchasing an additional property to the east of the proposed land purchase, which may be better suited for future expansion, rather than the extra frontage property that was being considered as part of the original proposal.

While the main property has a section to the west that could be used for expansion, the ground is lower and may require extra work - and costs - to make it suitable for construction.

The eastern property is 7.66 acres and is up for sale at $191,000, “which I think is a bargain for future growth and development,” Cole said. Total purchase costs would still remain under the $475,000 for land put to voters, he said.

Confirmed real estate options will be brought to JPs at the next quorum court meeting, Cole said.

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