The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

The May 3, 2022 election–with no city office races–did not cost Cleveland a penny. But how about the 2021 elections? The question of what it cost to hold them came up in a March budget hearing. Documenter Kellie Morris wondered about that and more, inspiring this #CLEDocsAnswers.

Kellie wondered if the city’s costs for the 2021 mayoral primary and general election were in the 2021 budget.

The short answer to Kellie’s question is no. That’s because election costs are budgeted for in the year after they occur. The city set aside $2 million for 2021 election costs in its 2022 budget, which Cleveland City Council passed in March.

The line item is on pg. 359 of the budget book:

Council Members Kris Harsh (Ward 13) and Joe Jones (Ward 1) asked in the March 3 meeting about the actual cost of the 2021 citywide elections and wondered what sort of expenses are tied to them.

The total cost to the City of Cleveland for holding its 2021 elections was $1,167,954.65, according to records provided to Cleveland Documenters by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Fiscal Office.

Costs for holding elections include ballot printing and mailing services, advertisements, wages for workers and more.

Check out the countywide costs for each service needed by municipalities for the September 2021 primary election.

And take a look at the countywide costs for each service needed by municipalities for the November 2021 general election. Note: these are total costs for election services needed throughout the county.

Officials in the March meeting also discussed how the city covers the costs. Cleveland Chief Financial Officer Ahmed Abonamah told Cleveland Documenters the city doesn’t send a check to the county; rather, the county withholds property taxes set to be distributed to Cleveland in the amount of the costs.

“Every four years, when we have a mayoral election, our payment obligation to the county spikes,” Abonamah said.

He said if the city budgeted for more than the actual cost, the remaining balance could be released as unencumbered cash and spent on something else at year’s end.

Credit: Paul Rochford / Cleveland Documenters

Check out Kellie’s notes on the March budget hearing to learn what else was discussed. And find all Cleveland Documenters coverage of local government meetings here.

Find the amended and passed 2022 budget here to see the final amounts allocated for each city department.

Assignment Editor (he/him)
Doug, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a copy editor and reporter. His work includes: The Pace of Passage about how quickly Cleveland City Council passes legislation; a look at the challenges of the city’s Exterior Home Paint program; and University Circle Police Department’s complaint-review process. Doug has also written explainers and guides and launched #CLEDocsAnswers, which answers questions Documenters have about local government.

Cleveland Documenters pays and trains people to cover public meetings where government officials discuss important issues and decide how to spend taxpayer money.