Bishop considers rolling into Inyo election cycle
Bishop City Council discussed the possibility of an election consolidation with Inyo County beginning as early as 2012 at Monday night’s City Council meeting on W. Line Street.
The proposed consolidation would eliminate the city’s stand-alone council elections beginning in 2012 or 2014, which would shorten the terms of City Council Members up for reelection in those particular years by four months. Council elections that would normally take place in March of odd years — in this case March 2013 or March 2015 — would now take place at the same time as Inyo and Statewide Primary and General elections in November of even years, in this case November 2012 or 2014.
According to County Clerk-Recorder Kammi Foote, City Council elections and statewide Primary and General elections have been consolidated in the past under special circumstances, such as a vacancy in an unexpired term, or the death of a seated official. What the city is currently proposing is not a special circumstance consolidation, but a consolidation that could last for many years.
Bishop is contemplating the consolidation primarily as a cost-saving measure; the Fiscal Year 2012-2013 election budget is currently $18,450, while the estimated cost for a consolidated election would be only $3,035.
The current election budget goes toward supplies like ballots, envelopes, absentee information and sample ballots, as well as public notices and poll workers. Were Bishop to consolidate with Inyo, Inyo County’s printing and ballot costs would help cover the City’s former costs, drastically reducing the overall cost of the election for Bishop. In turn, Bishop would pay $2,000 (out of the $3,035) to Inyo for consolidated election services.
Ultimately the Inyo County Board of Supervisors will have to approve the consolidation, Foote explained, “unless it’s a burden to the county, and it’s not going to be.” She maintained that consolidating a general municipal election with a statewide election would be cost effective for all parties.
Foote also noted that the consolidation wouldn’t require Inyo to alter its current voting technology. “In larger counties, you could have a situation where adding another contest would be detrimental,” Foote said; “for instance, you would have to purchase more voting machines to accommodate the increased population. But because we’re so small, we already have the equipment to accommodate Bishop voters.”
The change would be a minimal one for Bishop voters as well. Bishop citizens already vote in the Statewide election, so the consolidation would add only the council election to the same Statewide election ballot.
“$15,000 in savings is pretty attractive,” said Council Member Jeff Griffiths. Added Mayor Pro-Tem David Stottlemyre, “If we are looking to save some money in our budget, we certainly have to consider this.”
City Attorney Peter Tracy explained to Council Members that the most savings would come from a 2012 consolidation, because four seats would be up for reelection rather than two in 2014, but noted that the timeline for consolidating in 2012 couldn’t afford any delays.
“I think it can be done,” he said, “but the safer course in our opinion is 2014.”
Whether a consolidation would be in effect for the sooner 2012 or later 2014 ballot is uncertain, but the election consolidation discussion will continue in a public hearing at the next Town Council meeting on Dec. 12. Staff is also currently drafting an ordinance. Final authorization would need to be granted by the Board of Supervisors.