Nursing home levy special election could cost Erie County up to $50,000

PERKINS TWP. It will take money from the county's coffers and special effort from the election board
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

It will take money from the county's coffers and special effort from the election board to put the proposed nursing home levy on the ballot in February.

The election board estimates the Feb. 3 special election will cost between $40,000 and $50,000, said Debbie McDowell, director of the Erie County Election Board.

That figure includes the cost of 248 poll workers, four for each of Erie County's 62 voting locations. Paying them will cost almost $30,000, McDowell said.

Ballots also must be printed. The election board has set a special meeting for Thursday to open bids for the ballots.

County administrator Mike Bixler said commissioners estimated the special election will cost $48,000.

Commissioners are asking voters to again consider passing a half-mill levy that would last five years. Erie County's auditor, Tom Paul, has estimated the proposed levy would raise $1,007,441 for the Erie County Care Facility, a county-owned nursing home. The owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay $15.31 a year, Paul said.

The care facility has been losing money for the past two years.

An almost-identical issue narrowly lost Nov. 4, with 19,332 (49.29 percent) voting in favor, and 19,889 voting against it.

McDowell said it's rare for Erie County to have county-wide special elections.

"I've been here 22 years, and I don't think we've ever had a county-wide special election in February," she said.

The election board is trying to make sure there will be enough poll workers. Notices are being sent out this week to the people who usually work in the elections, so McDowell and other permanent staff can find out how many will be able to show up.

"We do have people who go away for the winter," McDowell said.

A new state law allows the election board to use one high school student at each precinct, and that should help, McDowell said.

Nursing home administrator Brad Storer said he hopes the fact the new vote is a special election will help the issue succeed.

"I think the people that support us will make the effort to go out and vote," he said.

Supporters plan to campaign harder in areas that were neglected during the last election, particularly Vermilion, Storer said. The campaign also will try to make sure the public knows that most of the nursing home employees -- about 100 of 120 total -- belong to a union.

He said the first campaign raised $9,700, and said the goal for the second campaign will be to raise about $5,000.