Stanislaus County, Modesto to split cost of airport neighborhood sewer vote

kcarlson@modbee.comApril 19, 2013 

    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
    Recent stories written by Ken

Stanislaus County and Modesto will split the cost of the airport neighborhood sewer extension vote on the November ballot.

Officials have not determined the cost of holding the citywide advisory vote simultaneously with the City Council district elections. Tuesday, county supervisors agreed to cover half the cost of the measure and approved a consent item that said the county's share would range from $44,630 to $71,900, based on an election office estimate.

A report from the chief executive office said an initial estimate from the registrar of voters was $89,260 to $143,799 for the single ballot measure, a whopping figure for those familiar with previous Measure M votes.

But Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan said Wednesday it won't cost that much. "We were asked for an estimate months in advance," Lundrigan explained. "The ultimate cost will depend on how many items are placed on the city ballot."

Modesto also could hold ballot measures Nov. 5 on a public safety tax and an urban growth line. The additional items on the city ballot will lower the cost for the sewer extension vote, Lundrigan said. She said costs for printing ballot pamphlets won't be known until the August deadline for putting items on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The Modesto sewer extension vote can be combined with ballots for the district 2, 4 and 5 elections, but it also triggers the need to send election materials to the rest of the city's 100,000 or so registered voters.

In 2009, county elections charged $35,016 to Modesto for five citywide ballot measures held at the same time as the first council district elections. During such elections, about half of city voters are asked to elect a council member from their district and vote on any ballot measures; the other half vote only on the measures.

City ballot measures cost a lot more when not combined with council elections. In 2010, Modesto was billed $101,102 for putting three measures on the general election ballot.

Lundrigan said it's most cost effective for Modesto ballot measures that coincide with mayoral races every four years, because they can piggyback on that citywide ballot. For the November 2011 election, the city was billed a total of $117,820, including $35,768 for five measures and the rest for electing three council members and choosing the finalists for the mayoral runoff.

That's compared with the $165,885 total cost for Modesto's election in 2009.

Rather than keep paying for Measure M advisory votes, which are required before Modesto can extend sewer trunk lines outside its border, officials want to consolidate about 16 county islands in a single advisory vote in 2015.

The City Council gave the OK April 9 to move in that direction. And county supervisors said they favored that idea Tuesday. The city and county have a stake in sewer extensions to correct health and safety problems caused by failing septic systems in unincorporated islands.

"In 2015, Modesto will have a citywide ballot anyway (for the next mayor's race) and that will reduce the cost of any measure placed on it," Lundrigan said.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

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