La Salle County should look to McLean County's example for a way to save taxpayers' money, a couple of County Board members say.
In a 2012 referendum, Bloomington-based McLean County consolidated its recorder's office into the county clerk's office, which took effect in early 2014.
So far, the consolidation is saving $150,000 a year, amounting to the salary and benefits for the recorder's and deputy recorder's positions, which were eliminated, McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael said.
Last week, La Salle County Board members Norm Sedlock, R-Streator, and Chuck Borchsenius, R-Sheridan, and recorder candidate Dennis Corbin met with Michael and others in the McLean County Clerk's Office to find out about the merger.
Corbin, a Republican, is running on the platform the county should consolidate the recorder's office into the county clerk's. It would have to be done by referendum.
Tom Lyons, who has served as recorder since the late 1990s, has announced he won't run in 2016.
Recorder's offices receive, file and maintain records related to real property, including conveyance deeds, mortgages, releases and assignments and property liens, among other things.
'A positive way to save'
Sedlock said McLean County's experience with consolidation has been good.
"If we can maintain service and not have to hire any other staff, this would be a good thing," he said.
Borchsenius said Lyons' departure is an "opportune time" to consolidate the recorder's office and eliminate the recorder's position. He said Lyons has done a good job but that the county's employees are qualified to take on his duties.
"It's a positive way to save money," he said.
"You would be eliminating the management of the office," he said. "Kathy Michael probably doesn't know what's going on in the recorder's side because she has someone who is running that side of the office."
The county clerk's office, Lyons said, is consumed by elections and doesn't have the time to deal with land records.
"Putting three tires on a car will save you money, but is that really a good idea?" he said. "Land records are critical for the economy. If you can't prove that you own a property, the banks aren't going to lend you money."
La Salle County Clerk JoAnn Carretto said she needs to research the consolidation idea before commenting, but added, "If it's not broken, don't fix it."
In 2014, Lyons pulled in a salary of $65,000, up from $38,000 in 2000, according to openthebooks.com
. If his salary had increased with the consumer price index, it would have risen to only $52,000.
The recording staff in McLean County is at five now, down from seven when the county still had a recorder and deputy recorder, Michael said. La Salle County's recorder office has eight employees, including the recorder.
While McLean County's population is 50 percent larger, La Salle County processes more documents yearly — 30,000 to 24,000, according to officials from the two counties. La Salle County's higher number is explained by a time-share development near Norway that gives the recorder's office plenty of work, Lyons said.
'This change has worked'
Michael said her office didn't get any more money for taking on the new responsibility or buy any new equipment to fill a void. It also didn't add a strain to the five remaining staff in the recording division, she said.
A year after the consolidation, Michael said, the recorder's office sent a survey to frequent users of the office such as attorneys and title companies and found they were satisfied with its services. The office received an average of 4.5 out of 5 points, she said.
"This change has worked," she said.
Corbin, the recorder's candidate, said the visit to McLean County reinforced his belief the recorder's office should be consolidated. He said he and others would try to persuade the County Board to put the issue on the ballot for the March election.
"Right now, we have eight people in the recorder's office, including the recorder. McLean County is operating with just five," Corbin said. "We can let the voters decide."
The other announced recorder candidates are Republican Karen Friestad Miller and Democrat Mary Beth Kuhn-Feltman.