December 20, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

REGISTRATION-ELECTIONS DIVISION
SB 90 ELECTION COSTS

Summary | Background | Findings | Recommendations | Responses
Summary:

The San Mateo County Registration-Elections Division of the Office of the Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder (SMRED) has not been advising cities, school and special districts that refund claims under SB 90 are available to recover that portion of election expenses applicable to the cost of absentee ballots. These costs in November 2000 approximated $120,000, equivalent to 9% of total election costs. A large number of cities and districts, but not all, are filing such claims on their own. In one instance in recent years, claims for $32,700 and $37,600 had not been made by one entity.

SMRED does not file SB 90 claims, nor are they required to file on behalf of cities, school and special districts. However, since costs of all local elections are administered by the county, the division is in a position to file the necessary claims on behalf of all of the entities if permission is received from them.

SMRED has not been billing school and special districts fully for their overhead costs connected with running elections. For two elections held in 1999-2000, a 10% overhead rate on labor costs was charged when the allowable rate that could have been charged was 33.5%. The cost absorbed by the county was $65,000.

.The grand jury recommends that:

  • After every election Registration-Elections Division should notify all entities within the county as to their rights to recover mandated SB 90 expenditures billed to them and attributable election costs
  • SMRED should work out a plan to file refunds for SB 90 election costs on behalf of all county entities. Possible benefits of the county filing on behalf of all county entities is greatly reduced filing paperwork and increased cost recovery
  • SMRED should revise its billing policy to fully recover overhead costs applicable to elections from schools and special districts
Background:

The San Mateo Registration-Elections Division is responsible for administering most elections held in the county. It maintains voter registration records, distributes sample, official, and absentee ballots, and certifies election results. The division is allowed by law to recover costs incurred in administering said elections with certain exceptions. The underlying law reflects that the state is not responsible for election costs other than the direct cost of printing the pre-election information pamphlet which describes proposed state propositions and the costs of absentee balloting that are largely recoverable under legislation commonly referred to as "SB 90." (Senate Bill No. 90 was enacted in 1972 and requires the state to reimburse local governmental entities for costs incurred in executing any service mandated by state legislation. Claims for such costs must be documented and submitted for approval to the Commission on State Mandates. This report, therefore, refers to SB 90 costs, claims, and process for sake of brevity.) In addition, the Election and Education Codes establishes various rules for when costs of an election should be apportioned (normally on the basis of registered voters) or borne equally in special circumstances.

Findings:

SMRED has not been billing school and special districts fully for its overhead costs connected with running elections. (Cities are specifically exempted from being charged for overhead items). For two elections held in 1999-2000, a 10% overhead rate on labor costs was charged when the allowable rate that could have been charged was 33.5%. In the prior year, the overhead rate was 32%. In the past two years, the total cost absorbed by the county was $65,000 while savings to schools and special districts approximated $65,000 from the under-billings.

While the legislation authorizes the county to file for SB 90 election refunds (absentee ballots etc.) for all county entities, currently the county only files on its own behalf. Consideration of filing on behalf of the other county entities has not been considered (insofar as is known to current personnel). San Mateo County recovered over $195,000 for elections held in the last election year cycle.

Not all entities are aware that they are entitled to refunds of absentee ballot costs under SB 90. In one instance in the past two years, one entity was not aware that it was eligible for claims of $32,700 and $37,600. In addition, small entity claims of $200 or less are not honored by the state unless they are combined with larger claims.

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Recommendations:


Recommendation 1.4

The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder implement a plan to advise every city, school district, and special district after each and every election that it is possible to file refund claims with the state for costs associated with absentee ballots under the provisions of SB 90.


Recommendation 1.5

The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder should consider revising its billing policy to fully recover overhead costs applicable to elections from school and special districts.


Recommendation 1.6

The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder work out a plan with cities and districts to file on behalf of all county entities refund claims for SB 90 election costs rather than billing each entity separately, necessitating each entity's filing separate claims.


Recommendation 1.7

The San Mateo County Grand Jury 2001-2002 monitor the above recommendations.

 

Responses

Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the 2000-2001 Grand Jury Report. The following summarizes this department's positions on the Grand Jury's recommendations relating to Registration-Election Division SB 90 election costs.

Recommendation 1.4

The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder implement a plan to advise every city, school district, and special district after each and every election that it is possible to file refund claims with the state for costs associated with absentee ballots under the provisions of SB 90.

Agree. The Department is now advises entities that they may be eligible for state reimbursement of Absentee costs through SB 90 claims through a "notice" at the bottom of the election billing invoices.

Recommendation 1.5

The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder should consider revising its billing policy to fully recover overhead costs applicable to elections from school and special districts.

Agree. Presently, the Department uses a 10% overhead rate for direct labor costs in billings to schools and special districts. Since a sudden significant increase in the rate might cause adverse financial impact on those entities, we will incrementally adjust our overhead rates upward to our actual overhead costs.

Recommendation 1.6

The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder work out a plan with cities and districts to file on behalf of all county entities refund claims for SB 90 election costs rather than billing each entity separately, necessitating each entity's filing separate claims.

Disagree. We have checked with several entities regarding SB 90 claims and found that they prefer to file their own claims. In fact, 12 cities and 9 school districts in San Mateo County have a current contract with DMG/Maximus (a consulting company in Sacramento) to handle SB 90 claims for them.

 

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