Off-year elections in focus in Calaveras

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat /

Several tiny public entities in Calaveras County may run the risk of pricey election costs later this year if they do not approve a shift to even-year votes by the end of this month.

Calaveras County is seeking to reduce costs in the Clerk's Office by shifting odd-year elections for special districts to coincide with statewide ballots in even years.

It is an action already taken by Tuolumne County in 2010 for similar reasons.

"This November, we won't have an election," Tuolumne County Clerk Debi Russell Bautista said.

The odd-year balloting has cost some districts in Calaveras as much as $8,300 in recent years - no small sum for often-cash-strapped and tiny governing bodies.

Thirty-three such districts, including fire districts, public water and sewer providers, veterans memorial districts and community service districts that primarily handle private road maintenance are affected, according to Calaveras County Elections Coordinator Rebecca Turner.

Turner said 27 of them met an initial deadline of Dec. 30 to approve resolutions that OK the change.

For the remainder, triggering an election this year might come with a heavy dose of sticker shock, she said, adding that costs will be "fairly enormous," likely more than some of the outstanding districts have in their coffers.

Turner said representatives of two of the remaining half-dozen districts, the Calaveras Public Utility District and Mokelumne Hill Sanitary District, have notified her that they have placed agenda items on meetings later this month to approve the election year change.

Extending the deadline for another month, Turner said she will submit the list of districts who have approved the change as of Jan. 31 to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote in February.

She said she has not been able to make contact with the San Andreas or West Point veterans memorial districts or the Copper Cove and Lynn Park Acres community service districts.

Those remaining boards historically have had fewer applicants than vacant seats come election time and typically end up having to appoint directors to fill the slots, Turner said. However, if there are enough filers for a contested election, by law, it must go to the voters, thus, the districts are left open to the risk of incurring a hefty bill if they do not act soon.

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The Union Democrat
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