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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Elections Office deficit covered

Published:   |   Updated: March 7, 2013 at 04:27 PM

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When Shirley Anderson took the reins of the elections office in January, she was immediately confronted with a $100,000 deficit left over from her predecessor.

The deficit was mainly caused by the additional costs for ballots and separation pay for some of the department's employees.

And although she has managed to trim that deficit almost in half, Anderson asked county commissioners Tuesday for an additional $47,725 to fill the hole. Any funds remaining at the end of the fiscal year will be returned to the general fund, Anderson said.

County commissioners voted 5-0 to give her the money, which will come out of the general fund contingency reserve.

Anderson said she was able to cut almost $50,000 by identifying grant revenue, decreasing printing and other costs and cutting one employee.

Her department is at bare bones with only four employees, she said, and money will be needed to hire additional staff during this off-election year and get them trained for next year.

Former elections supervisor Annie Williams had warned commissioners last year she would need money to fund the upcoming election but she was denied the funds.

That led government watchdog Anthony Palmieri to question whether partisan politics played a role in that decision. Williams was a Democrat and the board, at that time, was all Republican.

"This tells the people you think more of protecting your own Republican Party interests than that of the people you represent," Palmieri said.

Russell took exception with the comment, saying that Anderson did not "rack up these charges" and there was no intent to play party favorites.

Williams had fired off a memo to the board just prior to her leaving office saying the county had to print a two-page ballot instead of one for the November general election and that doubled her department's costs and caused additional postage, increasing her expenditures by about $50,000.

There were also postal delays, which caused her office to submit second and third ballots, costing another $10,000.

Because of the lengthy wording of the amendments, Williams said the department set a record number of absentee ballots, which cost another $15,000 for additional personnel for processing, returning and tabulating.

Those costs, along with the $31,024 the county took from her requested budget put her about $100,000 in the red, Williams said in a memo.

Anderson told Hernando Today this month she is trying to balance keeping two offices open and still move forward with the demands of the job now that she is down to only four full-time employees.

Anderson said she is definitely understaffed but there is nothing she can do at this time until she gets her budget under control.

This time last year, under Williams, there were 10 employees, some of whom retired and some left and were not replaced. (352) 544-5290

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