Secretary of State filers deserve the truth on budget

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Secretary of State filers deserve the truth on budget

By now, many of you have heard wild accusations, insults and downright fabrications about the Secretary of State’s office budget. I want to assure you my budget is sound, and while tighter than in previous years, I’m committed to maximizing and preserving your low filing fees.

When I became Secretary of State, one of my goals was to bring the department’s budget into compliance with state law. No department can maintain a surplus exceeding 16.5% of its spending. Beginning July 1, 2012, my office accumulated a $7 million surplus when state law only allowed $2.2 million in excess.

To reduce the excess surplus, I dropped filing fees across the board to chip away at those excess funds. I’m proud to say many of our filers took advantage of the reduction. Our fees are already among the lowest in the country, so reducing them may seem like a small deal, but we ultimately returned $3.5 million back to our filers. That’s $3.5 million that businesses can use to grow, or nonprofits can use to better serve their communities.

We coupled those fee holidays with long-term planning aimed at prolonging our federal election grant funds by bringing some of those costs in-house. In total, we absorbed $1.6 million from the declining federal funds and moved that responsibility to our cash fund.

Through both of these efforts, we brought our budget in line with state law, leaving $1.9 million in our surplus account. Unfortunately, the legislature sprung an election re-write bill near the end of the fiscal year that wiped out those surplus dollars, challenging our budget. Since a full 25% of our filing fees pay for elections in Colorado, this will have an impact on our ability to serve our paying customers.

As many of you know, the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee governs my department’s spending level, while I set the revenues through fees. Recently, through cooperation with the non-partisan committee staff, I revised my budget request to include less spending. Shockingly, the committee members rejected this reasonable approach and granted a higher spending amount wanting to force my hand to raise fees. One member even went so far as to threaten to sue my office to force me to raise fees.

To be clear, our office is operating within our budget. I will not be raising fees.

I want to reiterate my commitment to keep our fees the lowest in the country. My office will not have a shortfall and we’re going to meet our obligations to my customers and stakeholders. That means delivering top-notch customer service while charging as little as possible in fees.

My frustration is that more of the office’s resources will be devoted to my elections division than to supporting the department’s filers. We have exciting initiatives underway focused on increasing the efficiencies for our filers. These projects will be delayed because of resources necessary to meet the deadlines in the legislature’s election re-write.

That said, I’ve submitted a fiscally responsible budget that’s been endorsed by the non-partisan committee staff.

I will vigorously fight any attempts to force fee increases for businesses, nonprofits, charities, notaries public or bingo and raffle filers.

My aim is to provide clarity for my filers, so thank you for reviewing this and please contact my office with any additional questions or concerns you might have.

Thank you,

Scott Gessler