Merced County school districts stand to save a hefty sum of money next year by voting to change their school board election cycles.
Recently, several Merced County School District board members voted to change their elections to even-numbered years because of the high costs associated with paying for elections in odd-numbered years.
It's cheaper for districts to switch from odd- to even-year elections because that's when most of the state and county elections are held, so the costs would be split by more entities, said Karen Adams, Merced County Registrar of Voters.
The California Education code defines school board elections as typically being held in the November of odd years, according to Stacey Cotter, Merced County Assistant Registrar of Voters. School boards can adopt a resolution to change their election years.
Melinda Hennes, Atwater Elementary School District superintendent, said her district paid $9,000 for election costs in 2007. In 2009 the cost rose 87.5 percent to $17,000, she said.
Greg Spicer, associate superintendent of the Merced City School District (MCSD), said in the spring, districts pay into the election board to pay for their share of having board members run for office.
Last election, MCSD's costs were $20,000, and next year they would be $40,000, he said.
Lee Andersen, Merced County Superintendent of Schools, said for smaller school districts the increase in costs from 2007 to 2009 was 500 percent.
The increase in costs for certain school districts depends on a number of factors. In school board elections, when there's an incumbent running and there's no opposition, those are less expensive elections than if another candidate was running.
Comparing previous elections costs with current ones overlooks factors such as an increase in the number of registered voters, boundaries and trustee areas, Cotter said.
"We researched and incorporated approved methodology to capture permanent full-time staff through direct time study activities, which attributed to the majority of the increase," Cotter added.
With the new change, all school districts should end up saving money, Cotter said. The amount they'll save is unknown and because it depends on variables won't be determined until election time.
On Tuesday, the Merced County Board of Supervisors approved the adopted resolutions of nine school districts that voted to change their election years.
The districts included Le Grand Elementary School District, Delhi Elementary School District and Winton Elementary School District, among others.
Other schools districts have already made the change.
Cotter said at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting that she expects all districts to follow suit.
One downside to the change is that currently serving school board members whose term may expire in 2011 will serve for an extra year until the the 2012 elections, Andersen said. That might upset some community members who wish to run in the 2011 election, he said.
Another possible downside could be that school board elections could become eclipsed by the other races during the even-numbered years.
But school districts could benefit by having a larger turnout, Cotter said.
School districts have until March 2011 to pass a resolution to change from odd- to even-year elections for the next election cycle.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209)385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.