Gotham Gazette City Continues Board of Elections Budget Dance by Samar Khurshid

Gotham Gazette
City Continues Board of Elections Budget Dance
Samar Khurshid

Although Mayor Bill de Blasio promised after taking office that he would do away with the practice of underfunding city agencies in the preliminary budget only to later provide them with full funding, one agency that seems to suffer from this each year is the New York City Board of Elections. The budget process for fiscal year 2018 is no exception.

The mayor’s preliminary budget, which he unveiled in late January, allocates the Board of Elections $98.6 million. The figure is about $61.7 million less than the $160.3 million that BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan has projected the agency needs over the next fiscal year, which begins July 1 and includes the 2017 city election cycle.

Ryan testified Monday at a City Council budget hearing, held by the Committee on Governmental Operations, that touched on a range of topics, including challenges the BOE has faced in administering elections in the past, BOE budget savings, cybersecurity, and even President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim of widespread voter fraud in the November 2016 presidential election.

The BOE -- which is governed by state law but funded by New York City -- was one of a number of agencies that provided testimony on the preliminary budget at Monday’s hearing, following the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the Law Department.

In fiscal year 2018, the BOE anticipates overseeing four citywide election events -- a municipal primary in September, a potential run-off election day in October, a municipal general election in November, and a federal primary day in June of 2018. This doesn’t account for any special elections that may be held in the next fiscal year for vacancies that occur.

As with the last two years, the BOE’s preliminary budget is far below its needs. Last year, the city allocated $88.4 million to the BOE in the preliminary budget, before increasing that number to $123 million in the budget that was adopted in June when the mayor and City Council came to an agreement on the current spending plan. The annual November budget modification saw that number increase to $130 million.