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Thanks Bob

Item 35 on the Arlington County Board’s so-called “consent agenda” for the September 13 + 16, 2008 meeting involved the Manager’s recommendation to the Board to reduce appropriations in the FY 2009 county budget by just over $1.2 million because of reductions in state funding.

According to the Manager’s report, “Arlington had two options for dealing with these reductions – cutting expenditures, or increasing another revenue source, such as real estate taxes.  A reduction in departmental expenditures is recommended.” One department slated for cuts was the Electoral Board where the Manager recommended cutting $4,530, and provided the following description:

“Cut supplies, and equipment used for temporary staff hired leading up to the November election.  If sufficient savings cannot be achieved through these means, may need to reduce number of Election Officials in the precincts on election day.”

But isn’t everyone predicting extremely large voter turnouts for the November 4, 2008 elections? Well, yes. In fact, according to this story posted at the online Arlington Sun-Gazette, “officials predicting a record turnout of more than 115,000 voters - up more than 20 percent from the last presidential election . . . .”

In steps Bob Atkins. He testified on item 35 at the Board’s September 16 recessed meeting. The Sun-Gazette reported:

“Give them back the money - don't ruin the election . . . ,” Atkins told board members.

“If such a cut had been proposed anywhere else in Virginia, “the Democratic Party would be in court, seeking an injunction [and claiming] vote suppression,” said Atkins, a Republican activist.”

Not to worry, though. The Sun-Gazette reports that County Manager Ron “Carlee said that the Electoral Board cuts, which total about $4,300, would be offset by the support provided by other county departments on Election Day. “All of the resources of the county are available to the registrar,” the county manager said. “We will make any adjustments we need.””

So there you are! The Electoral Board’s budget is cut from $921,863 to $917,33, or just over 0.49%, but it is being asked to do perhaps 20% more work. Now if only we can just get the rest of the county and the schools to do the same. Without Bob Atkins’s testimony yesterday, it’s likely the Board would have approved item 35 with the other “consent items” without the clarification and promise from the Manager."

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