Should Lake County eliminate the recorder's office? Voters could decide
Years after the idea first was proposed, a plan to eliminate the office of the Lake County recorder of deeds may appear on ballots this fall.
The county board will decide Tuesday whether to ask voters to merge the office with the county clerk's office by Dec. 1, 2022. The clerk's office would absorb the recorder's duties, and the elected position of recorder would disappear.
The recorder's office keeps real estate transactions, military discharge papers and other documents. The clerk's office oversees elections and maintains birth, marriage and death records, as well as other documents.
Proponents of merging the offices say it could save money. On Friday, Lake County spokeswoman Arin Thrower said the potential savings would essentially be the recorder's salary, which is roughly $127,874 annually. The county also would save money on health insurance and other employment benefits if there were no longer a recorder.
"It's a big chunk of change," said Recorder Mary Ellen Vanderventer, a Waukegan Democrat who's held the post since 1996.
Vanderventer's 17-member staff would move to the clerk's office if the offices were to merge. No layoffs are planned.
All public services would continue as currently offered, Thrower said.
Vanderventer backs a merger but didn't originate the idea. Her Republican challengers in 2012 and 2016 both called for consolidation. Vanderventer opposed consolidation in 2012 but supported investigating a merger in 2016.
On Friday, Vanderventer said she turned around on the issue after Cook County voters approved a merger in 2016 and DuPage County officials decided to put the issue to voters, which will happen in November.
More than 80 of Illinois' 102 counties have a combined recorder and clerk's office. Cook and DuPage are the only counties in Illinois with populations larger than Lake's.
"I just saw the writing on the wall," Vanderventer said. "It's just time, I guess."
A merger especially makes sense now because the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will require governmental budget cuts, Vanderventer said.
Vanderventer is seeking reelection in November. She'll face Deerfield Republican Emilia Czyszczon, who also supports a merger.
Czyszczon couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
Tuesday's county board meeting is set for 9 a.m., and it will be held remotely because of the COVID-19 crisis. People can observe the meeting online at lakecounty.tv or watch it live on Comcast's Channel 18 or Channel 30 or AT&T U-verse Channel 99.