Buffalo School Board Member Ralph Hernandez
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It's the equivalent of asking someone for help, and then billing them for helping you.
That's essentially what the Buffalo School Board did after the county helped them hold their elections in May.
Every other May, Buffalonians vote on school board seats. It's a special election with low turnout (5% in 2010) because nothing else is on the ballot. Erie County's Board of Elections is required to run it.
Often times they use city schools as polling places, only to have the schools send them a bill.
2 On Your Side asked School Board President Ralph Hernandez about it.
REPORTER: On the surface, does it sound right that the Board of Elections is holding an election for the school board, but they have to pay the school board to use some of your facilities?
HERNANDEZ: It certainly doesn't appear to be right. But let's keep in mind though that it's probably because of the collective bargaining process.
According to Hernandez, the money is for the use of custodians. On election days, he says union contracts require custodians to receive special pay for attending to the polling place.
According to Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward, for the last election, the district billed the board of elections more than $13,000, including nearly $800 in cleaning charges.
REPORTER: Is that not something custodians normally do in their course of the day?
WARD: Um, I don't know what their normal schedule is. My recollection this year is that the board of education day was a nice day so there wasn't anybody tracking mud in or anything like that.
"I kind of find those figures rather high," he said.
REPORTER: Is there any way to get some of these provisions out of the union contracts so it actually doesn't cost the board of elections more money to do elections for you guys?
HERNANDEZ: We can certainly look at that. We can certainly talk to the unions about that... And I think the sooner we get to dealing with those issues through negotiations, the better off we're going to be.
REPORTER: Why not just do your elections in November, when everybody else does them, and that wouldn't cost the board of elections another $100,00?
HERNANDEZ: For many reasons, I think first of all, if people think the board of election races are political it's not even close to what it would be should we move these races to November.
Hernandez school board members, who run without party lines in May, would have to run on the lines in November.
"What happens is, really in essence, is the party bosses are selecting the school board members and not the public," Hernandez said.
Commissioner Ward said the Board of Elections is trying to move polling places to sites other than schools, which are less expensive. He said they prefer to use schools only in instances where they can accommodate four or five different precincts.