GREEN BAY — There is a price to pay for the upcoming recall elections and you, the taxpayer, are paying for them.
Local municipalities and counties are using cash from taxpayers to cover the added costs putting a strain on their budgets. But the expense doesn't stop there with a lot on the line.
Two recall elections in the next two months will determine who will run our state for the next two years. Will Governor Scott Walker keep his job? Or will Democratic unrest usher in candidate Tom Barrett, Kathleen Falk, Doug La Follette or Kathleen Vinehout?
And to afford this unusual and rare show of democracy at the polls, taxpayers around the state will be paying the bill starting next week with the Democratic and Republican recall primary election.
"Approximately $8 million, a little more than $8 million and that's the cost for each recall election at the local level," said Reid Magney, spokesman for the state's Government Accountability Board in Madison.
That's $8 million for the primary recall election and another $8 million for the general recall election. In all $16 million for both statewide elections in which local municipalities pay their share.
In Green Bay the total cost could climb to $80,000, according to Mayor Jim Schmitt. Money he says could be put to better use.
"Well there's a lot of things, it's a tight budget so $70,000 to $80,000 is significant," said Schmitt. "You look at anything from improvements to infrastructure, to adding more things to police, fire."
In fact $80,000 for Green Bay, or Appleton or any other city, could nearly pay for three new police squad cars currently in the Green Bay budget for $28,000 each.
Or $80,000 is just about enough to pay the mayor's entire salary for a year.
"We're watching every penny here so you take $80,000, it's something we'd love to have but look on the other hand we take our medicine around here and understand this is an expense we're going to have to incur," said Schmitt.
If you think Green Bay has it bad, those residents also need to pay Brown County's share of the costs of running an election. The cost to the county is estimated at $150,000.
And where is that$150,000 going to come from?
"Well I certainly didn't budget for it. I didn't budget for any recall election because you can't," explained Brown County Clerk Darlene Marcelle.
Marcelle says the money will be taken from Brown County's general fund, which once again is money from local taxpayers.
It's a lot for a local budget, but break down the cost by population and it might not seem so bad. In the Green Bay area the added elections add up anywhere from about a dollar to a few dollars for each man, woman and child depending on your municipality. Money the GAB points out goes a long way.
"That means programming the voting machine, that means hiring the election workers, that means printing the ballots. All of the things that go into doing an election at the local level," said Magney.
For Brown County, $150,000 could have been used to buy one-fifth of all the books, subscriptions and periodicals purchased this year for the Brown County library or pay the salaries for three librarians and still have money left over.
The money used to pay for the elections is one thing, but it's not the only cost to local counties, cities and villages.
"Other projects are maybe put on the back burner; grants are put on the back burner or whatever. Water related work gets put on the back burner," said Tracy Flucke, village administrator of Allouez.
Flucke says the recalls will cost the village $20,000, but more importantly it costs them time and manpower which is limited in a community of less than 15,000.
"And that's real tough. You can't put a number on that but it's the other things that are not getting done because (village workers) are spending a lot of time doing the election work that needs to get done," said Flucke.
Like the Parks and Recreation secretary. Instead of working on programming for this summer, she has been swamped dealing with absentee ballots.
And add to all the local costs another $750,000 the Government Accountability Board spent verifying the recall petitions and setting the recall election dates.
The GAB is the agency that was asked by the legislature to come up with the true cost of statewide election. The $8 million an election was derived from a GAB online survey.