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Special elections to cost $41,500 apiece

SHERIDAN — Election judges, ballots, building rental and all those pens to fill in the bubbles on the ballots add up when elections are held in Sheridan County.

With two special elections approaching — the $15.85 million Sheridan College bond issue Aug. 20 and the $40 million specific purpose Capital Facilities Tax Nov. 5 — Sheridan County Elections Supervisor Brenda Kekich has calculated the total cost of each special election to be approximately $41,500.

Both elections will be conducted like a regular general election with all polling places in the county operating full hours. Costs include training and payment for election judges, advertising, rental of polling locations, ballot and poll book printing, office supplies, part-time salary for additional, temporary office help in the elections office and other miscellaneous charges such as meals, mileage and a “cushion” to cover any overages.

The county hires extra office help in even-numbered years that are typically associated with elections, Kekich said, but in order to cover both special elections this year, the elections office hired additional office help 30 hours per week for five months. The approximately $9,000 worth of wages will be split between Sheridan College and the county.

According to state statute, bond questions can be submitted to electors in primary or general elections, or “on the Tuesday next following the first Monday in May or November, or on the Tuesday next following the third Monday in August.”

“There’s no regularly scheduled general election coming up any time soon, and we need this capacity now,” Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young said about the college’s choice to hold a special election in August.

The funds raised from the bond issue for the college will be used to renovate 25,795 square feet and add 27,205 square feet of new space to the technical education center on campus, which is outdated and too small to house the number of students who are applying for degree programs in welding, machine tool technology and diesel mechanics, Young said.

The bond would increase property taxes approximately $2.09 per $100,000 of property value owned per month for no more than 16 years.

When the college conducted a poll to determine support level for the bond issue, it found that a majority of contacted voters were supportive.

“It’s always better to strike while the iron is hot, and that’s why we decided to go ahead with the August election,” Young said. “We also know there’s a session of the Legislature coming up, and we thought that this would be a very strong signal to be able to show the Legislature that we have this kind of community support in advance of the start of that new session.”

Young said that if the bond issue passes Aug. 20, the college will be able to bid the project in January and begin construction in April, which would enable the college to take advantage of next summer’s construction season and could save $500,000 worth of escalated construction costs, which typically increase 5 percent per year.

“It gets us a year closer to being able to have more students in those programs,” Young said.

The $41,500 cost of the special election will be paid for by Sheridan College out of its fiscal year 2014 regular operating costs, Young said, assuring that the proceeds of the bond will be applied entirely to financing and facility construction. Young also noted that state statute requires colleges to fund construction with bond issues, meaning the cost of the special election is an appropriate budget line item, and that bonds are available for purchase by local investors in $5,000 increments.

“It’s another cost of doing business, just like anything else,” Young said.

 

Estimated costs for Sheridan College bond issue special election

Part-time office help: $4,500

Contract labor (training and wages for election judges, counters and helpers): $22,803

Advertising: $700

Polling place rental: $420

Mileage and meals: $400

Ballots and poll books: $4,167

Office supplies and printing: $3,450

Additional cushion: $5,060

Estimated total: $41,500

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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