Should the Lake County recorder's office merge with the clerk's office?

 
 
Updated 10/6/2016 11:25 AM
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  • Republican Robert Haraden, left, and Democrat Mary Ellen Vanderventer are candidates for Lake County recorder of deeds.

    Republican Robert Haraden, left, and Democrat Mary Ellen Vanderventer are candidates for Lake County recorder of deeds.

The Republican running to be Lake County's next recorder of deeds says merging the office with the county clerk's office is a priority -- and the Democratic incumbent is open to investigating the idea.

The GOP's Robert Haraden said such a move could save taxpayers $500,000 over four years.

Five-time incumbent Mary Ellen Vanderventer said she'd support a study to determine whether merging the offices is fiscally prudent. She's doubtful it would save money, saying the same number of employees still would be needed to handle the tasks of both offices.

"There have been no findings that this would save any money," Vanderventer said.

Haraden is a dentist from Libertyville. He initially intended to run for the GOP nomination for the 21st District seat on the Lake County Board this year but was knocked off the ballot in December 2015 because he failed to properly file a statement of economic interest.

He subsequently won the Republican nomination for recorder as a write-in candidate.

Vanderventer, of Waukegan, has been the recorder since 1996.

The recorder's office keeps real estate transactions, military discharge papers and other documents. The post carries a 4-year term.

The candidates spoke about the future of the office and other issues in interviews with the Daily Herald and candidate questionnaires.

Eliminating the office isn't a new proposal, nor is the discussion limited to Lake County.

It was a campaign issue in Lake County in 2012, when Vanderventer faced Republican Bob Bednar. Consolidation was a top issue for Bednar.

In Cook County, voters will decide in this election if the recorder's office should be eliminated and its duties absorbed by the county clerk's office by 2020. The Republican candidate for recorder in McHenry County wants to eliminate the post there, too. Kane County officials have discussed consolidation as well.

In Lake County, Haraden said he wants to develop a plan within two years to get rid of the office.

Employees could be retrained, he said, and made "more efficient."

Officials should look to other counties that have merged the two offices to see how they've accomplished the task, Haraden said.

"I think it's just a win-win," he said.

When the issue arose four years ago, Vanderventer said the volume of the work her staff does stands in the way of a merger. The office keeps more than 7 million documents.

Vanderventer now says a cost study should be done to see how much money could be saved, if any.

She also mentioned the recorder's office, which is funded entirely by the fees for the paperwork it handles, generates more money for county government than any other department.

"Our office generates between $10 million and $12 million each year, depending on the volume of recordings," Vanderventer said. "Before the (real estate) market crashed, we generated around $18 million to $20 million each year. But the market is coming back, people are refinancing and buying new homes, so we are seeing an increase each year."

Vanderventer said she has consistently reduced costs by trimming staff size and making other changes.

"Since 1997, we have cut our budget every single year," she said.

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