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SCFD, Jeffco end dispute over 2004 election costs

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By AJ Vicens

The Scientific Cultural and Facilities District and Jefferson County have agreed to end all legal action after an agreement was reached last week in a dispute over costs related to the 2004 elections.

The SCFD — an entity that funds scientific and cultural entities through a 0.1 percent sales and use tax charged in metro-area counties — will pay Jeffco $156,934 over two years, with the final payment expected in December 2008. That amount includes $7,500 in interest, which is less interest than Jefferson County District Court awarded the county, according to Jeffco Deputy of Elections Josh Liss.

Several counties filed lawsuits against the SCFD after payments were not made after the election. All of them settled their cases except Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, which have now reached agreements.

According to Liss and a statement from the SCFD, both sides are happy to put this dispute behind them.

“All sides are pleased to be able to put this behind us and move forward,” Liss said.

“SCFD is pleased to bring closure to this issue,” board chairman Jim Harrington said in a statement. “We especially appreciate the willingness of several of the counties to work with SCFD to help bring the total cost down to manageable levels.”

The SCFD statement cited statutory limits on administrative spending that “required us to seek concessions form the counties for payment of election costs.”

Since the 2004 elections, the SCFD has gone to the state legislature and obtained legislation creating a formula under which it will pay for election costs, Liss said. Harrington said the legislation will put the SCFD in a better position to plan for election costs, and “thus the SCFD are going to be able to budget for those costs and pay the election bills in the future.”

“It appears that they were surprised at the amount owed from each county,” Liss said. “It didn’t appear that they had budgeted or planned to pay as much as they were billed.”

“That would be a very accurate statement,” Harrington said when asked about Liss’ assertion. “The expectation was the election costs would probably be in the $300,000 range for the seven counties, and the total bill came to about $840,000.”

Liss said the bill — which is computed based on a percentage of the total election cost — covers election judges, polling places, printing of ballots, temporary workers and overtime needed during the election.

“Jeffco does pay the majority of those costs, but we do bill a proportionate share out to each entity that certifies language to the ballot,” Liss said.

Harrington said Jeffco and Arapahoe counties were less willing to negotiate than the other counties.

“(I) don’t know” why a settlement wasn’t reached sooner, Harrington said. “In the five counties that we settled with, they were receptive to discussing the issue and trying to work out a solution that was acceptable to both sides. And in the case of Arapahoe and Jeffco, there was not that same willingness to sit down and talk and work out a compromise. I don’t know what to attribute that to.”

A.J. Vicens can be reached at: aj@evergreenco.com.