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URBANA — An already-approved plan to combine campus-area polling places for the April 4 municipal and school board election could be overturned tonight by the Champaign County Board.

Also on the agenda at the board's committee-of-the-whole meeting (6:30 p.m. at the Brookens Administrative Center) is a proposal authorizing the county treasurer and county auditor to borrow up to $1.5 million from the public safety sales tax fund to the county's all-purpose general fund, if needed.

It's a "safety valve" in case the county's cash balance gets too low in the next three months, said County Administrator Rick Snider.

"The county's been doing this for a number of years," Snider said. "It doesn't necessarily get used. It depends on the fund balance. But our cash projection is that we're going to get low in April and we just need to make sure we have the ability to have some additional money if we need it.

"But once we get our (property) tax collections in June, we'll be paying back anything that's borrowed."

Snider said the county's finances are in worse shape than a year ago.

"Our position has declined a bit," he said. "I think our revenue numbers are down a bit for sales tax, use tax, income tax."

Statewide, according to a recent report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, personal income tax collections year to date are down almost 3 percent while corporate income tax revenue is down 42 percent. Sales tax collections statewide are up 2 percent.

Meanwhile, the county board will consider a resolution to re-establish eight separate poling places for eight precincts — five in Champaign and three in Urbana — for the April 4 consolidated election.

County Clerk Gordy Hulten had offered the county board a polling-place consolidation plan early in January, noting that traditionally, municipal elections attract few voters in campus-area precincts. Four years ago, Hulten said, there was a total of four voters for the primary and 41 for the general election in 10 campus-area precincts. In 2015, there was no primary, but there were 105 voters in the general election.

But Champaign Democrat Josh Hartke said operating all of the polling places would be easier for campus-area voters.

"These are the same places all of those students just voted in November," he said. "It makes it convenient."

And in discussions with Hulten, Hartke said, "we found it's easier to do all of them versus (consolidating to) three or four because to do a consolidated district it takes extra equipment that we have only a limited supply of. So we have enough to do 10 precincts at the Union but not enough to do three other (consolidated) places, which had been proposed."

Board members initially approved Hulten's polling-place combination plan unanimously on Jan. 19. But in the interim, county board Democrats heard charges of voter suppression, and the entire board received a legal opinion from the state's attorney's office that said the "recently passed resolution is vulnerable to legal challenge."

The board voted late in January not to operate three separate polling places for the Feb. 28 primary in Urbana, and to keep all voting for Cunningham precincts 3, 4 and 5 at the Illini Union.

But that could change with the April 4 election, even though Hulten still favors combining the polling places.

"I think for a low-turnout election like the one we're going to have in April, that having a unified, centrally located voting location on campus — which is also an early voting location — is better service for the voters on campus," said the county clerk.

He estimated his plan to combine polling places into a central site at the Union would save the county about $10,000.

"A fully staffed polling place, the election judges alone will cost us between $1,000 and $1,250 per polling place. So $10,000 just for election judges — and not counting equipment, supplies, wear and tear on the equipment, rent and any of those other costs — is a pretty good estimate," Hulten said.

Columnist

Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is tkacich@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).