LIVERMORE -- The push for Measure W and X began when Livermore mayor John Marchand spotted a striking disparity in the city clerk's budget for the next two years.

The figures, he discovered, dropped from about $650,000 in 2012-13 to $300,000 in 2013-14 -- a difference representing the cost of City Council elections in odd-years.

"We had to pay all the costs of the election," Marchand explained. "I asked, 'Why are we doing it this way?' and they said, 'Well, we've always done it this way.'"

Measure W, approved on Nov. 6 by Livermore voters, allows the city to move its municipal odd-year elections to even years. Its losing companion initiative, Measure X, would have spread out the time to make the change -- delaying some of the savings.

The odd-year situation, Marchand said, dates back to 1985, when the city shifted from April to November elections. By voting in odd-numbered years, residents were funding the elections themselves, instead of sharing costs with Alameda County and other local jurisdictions.

The discovery spurred Marchand to author Measure W and Measure X, both intended to change elections to even years, but with different time frames. The quickest way to save money, he said, was to tack on a year for incumbent city council members and himself, else the city would need another costly election in 2013.

"[Measure] W was cleaner; it made more sense. It started saving money now," Marchand said. "It was common sense, and the Livermore voters got it."


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To convince a few "cynical people" who thought adding another year to the terms was a ruse, Marchand added the companion initiative Measure X. It would've stretched the change out over two more odd-year elections--in 2013 and 2015.

Marchand saw no downside in aligning with the county, and Livermore voters agreed, overwhelmingly approving Measure W by a 3-to-1 margin. Measure X went down to defeat.

The result, according to Livermore City Clerk Susan Neer, is that the bill for future council elections will be shared by a larger pool, meaning the cost to the average Livermore voter, previously about $6, will decrease significantly.

"We anticipate a drastic drop, perhaps down to $1 per registered voter in future elections," Neer said. "It's a huge cost savings."

Marchand said the estimated extra $250,000 starting next year could be used by city departments or passed on to the county's registrar of voters to fund off-year elections. Council members will decide where to allocate the money, including possibly extending operation of the Springtown Library a couple more days during the week.

"They'll be able to step back and say, 'where can we put this to the best good?' " Marchand said.

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184 or follow him at twitter.com/@jet_bang

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