By DAVID SKOLNICK
Mahoning County Board of Elections officials say they’ll eliminate at least 37 precincts by the November election and make other cuts in an effort to reduce operating expenses.
Elections Director Thomas McCabe and Deputy Director Joyce Kale- Pesta met Tuesday with the three county commissioners, county Administrator George Tablack and Prosecutor Paul J. Gains to talk about ways to cut costs at the board.
The elections board is on pace to be $185,000 over its $1.32 million budget this year, McCabe said.
The elections board hasn’t made any final decisions on any additional cuts — the board reduced its costs by about $200,000 in January.
McCabe said further cuts probably would add up to about $90,000 to $100,000.
The reduction of precincts from 287 definitely will happen, he and Kale-Pesta said.
Right now, the plan is to get that number down to 250, but it could go lower, they said.
“We could go down to 200 if we have to,” McCabe said. “We don’t want to, but we could if we have to.”
Each precinct costs about $700 to operate per election, they said.
The board also might eliminate two to four of its 14 positions, McCabe said.
Other cuts being considered by the elections board include:
Increasing the employee health-care premium contribution from 10 percent to 20 percent.
Closing on Fridays during the slow months of the year, thus reducing salaries of those working at the board by 20 percent for those weeks.
In January, the board made six of its clerks nine-month employees, cutting their annual base-pay salaries by 25 percent: from $35,600 to $26,700. The board also reduced the starting pay for full-time clerks to $21,800. It also reduced the number of part-time workers during busy election periods and eliminated part-timers during slower months.
Requiring board employees to pay about 10 percent of their state retirement contribution.
Not training poll workers, who receive $20 for the training. Instead, the board would train only presiding judges.
Eliminating color copies.
No longer using “authority to vote” slips, pieces of paper given by a poll worker to voters after they sign in to cast a ballot. The voter then gives the slip to a poll worker who places it in a pouch and takes the voter to a voting machine.
The county commissioners praised elections officials for their cost-cutting efforts.
Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said he wished the county’s judges would come to them with ways to reduce costs.
Commissioner John McNally IV added: “The board of elections is to be commended for looking to cut costs. They’ve got to look at staffing, and they are. We need to consider how much staff we need. There’s no growth in the county’s budget next year.”