Richland County Council members, frustrated over paying for an election office beyond their control, want legislators to stop sending them the bills for state-mandated services. Councilman Seth Rose suggested the county refuse to pay for expensive new voting machines, additional staff or renting buildings for Election Day polling places. Councilman Jim Manning said any property-tax increase resulting from state-ordered services should be labeled “the local legislative delegation funding tax.” And Councilman Bill Malinowski said it’s just not fair for the county to “keep sucking it up” when the state Legislature hasn’t been paying its way with the Local Government Fund. Under the state funding formula, Richland County should get $18 million this coming year, but “that’s a pipe dream,” Councilman Greg Pearce said. The turmoil came out as the council discussed upcoming budget issues at an annual retreat Thursday.
While the county pays for the election and voter registration office, county legislators have called the shots on staff and salary. Some council members said Thursday that bigger bills for the elections office are inevitable. But others said they’re not prepared to pay more for the office that bungled the Nov. 6 election, at that time led by Lillian McBride. Some voters were forced to wait in line up to seven hours while others gave up in frustration.
Since then, McBride has stepped down but is staying on in a $74,600 position created especially for her by the Board of Elections & Voter Registration. Now, council may be faced with paying for her successor. A salary has not been set. Board officials say McBride’s job is being funded with money for a different position that was never filled.