Budget woes: Cuts for Erie County Board of elections in proposed county budget

Posted at 11:53 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 23:53:08-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — To keep up with demand in 2020, the Erie County Board of Elections has had to add staff members and use Covid-19 grants to help offset costs.

“We’ve had to rely on grant funding from the state and federal government and the state board of elections as well to help us out with some overtime costs and moving some of our employees who are part time to full time,” Erie County Democratic Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner said.

There is some concern over next year’s proposed budget, which shells out almost a million dollars less than what the Board of Elections asked for. The “executive recommendation” cuts $300,000 from payroll, $100,000 in overtime, and more than $10,000 in maintenance and repair.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Zellner: “Do you feel like you have enough between grants and the budget to keep you afloat for how many more weeks?”
Zellner responded, “Well, right now we do.” He continued, "We feel we probably will have to come back to the county mid-year next year to ask for more money to help us get through the election, but we’ll figure that out after this election.”

Erie County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Ralph Mohr agrees with the possibility of having to ask the legislature mid-year for more money — like many departments do — but also wants to explore the idea of grant money to help offset costs. He said this year, the Board of Elections received two public grants and one private foundation grant.

“Whether those grants will be available during a non-presidential year where the attention is on elections and next year is a local election year. We’ll adapt. We haven’t missed an election yet and we don’t intend to do so,” Mohr said.

The County Executive’s Office said in an email exchange the budget took into account department input and the pandemic. The fate of the budget is now up to the county legislature.