The figures speak loudly for themselves. Johnson City taxpayers are simply not getting their money’s worth by holding the municipal election in the spring.
As Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reported last week, Johnson City’s election in April cost taxpayers $77,867, which is $2,800 more than what was budgeted. The largest single expense was for election officials, which at $58,918.50 was more than the average cost of the past four elections. This cost includes training, hourly pay, Social Security, Medicare and mileage reimbursement.
While the cost to hold the municipal election was up this year, the turnout was down. The April 23 election drew 11.4 percent of the city’s 38,237 registered voters. That’s down a bit from the 2011 when nearly 12 percent of the city’s eligible voters went to the polls.
Typically, fewer voters go to the polls for a municipal election than they do for state and federal races. It’s disturbing that so many city voters choose to ignore elections for offices that touch their lives (and their wallets) on a daily basis.
Perhaps it’s the timing of the spring elections that catch some voters and potential candidates for school board off guard. There’s been talk in recent years that putting the municipal elections on the same November ballot as state and federal races might generate more interest among voters. It would also save city taxpayers as much as $70,000 by holding city elections along with those contests.
Opponents to moving Johnson City’s election date to November argue that holding the contest in the spring allows the voters to concentrate solely on city races. Perhaps they are correct, but we suspect that some defenders of the current date fear moving it to November would mean a higher voter turnout and more turnover on the City Commission and Board of Education.
The town of Jonesborough is now saving as much as $20,000 by holding its municipal elections in November. Other cities in the region, including Kingsport, are also considering moving their elections from the spring to the fall. Johnson City should join them.