Letter to the Editor

Recorders Office thoughts

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

There is a lot of talk about a petition circulating that would combine the recorder's office into the auditor's office in Dickinson County. Whatever your thoughts about government, its size and cost, I hope you think carefully before signing this petition. In fact, I urge you not to sign this petition. Here are my reasons.

Only two counties in Iowa have made the decision to combine offices, even though as many as eight have studied the option. The vast majority clearly did not locate savings or increased efficiencies and felt they would lose too much by combining.

The two counties which did choose to combine (Woodbury and Marshall) apparently bought a pig in a poke. Neither of the two has saved money as a result. In Woodbury County, a fine auditor has been leading a combined office. He will tell you he has perceived savings over 18 years. If his figures are correct, the amount saved, per taxpayer, comes to less than $2.00 per year. However, the supervisors there, who oversee the entire budget from a big-picture angle, are saying they have saved no money from combining. Given this conflicting view of the outcome of taking such a drastic step, the wise course would seem to be keeping these two distinct and important elected offices.

Independently elected recorders serve as colleagues with elected supervisors, attorneys, auditors, treasurers, and sheriffs. Together, we provide for a comprehensive planning process that guarantees the most effective use of tax dollars in the current difficult economic climate and in the years to come. It takes a variety of perspectives to plan, tighten budgets, evaluate the distribution of responsibilities and adjust funding as priorities and needs change.

I agree with those who feel government needs to be leaner, more responsive and cost-effective. But simply reducing the number of elected positions is not likely to get you there. What you might gain by combining would amount to less than the cost of the cup of coffee you are holding in your hand as you read this. What you will lose is an independent, energetic, and highly accountable elected recorder to oversee your boat, snowmobile, and ATV/ORV titles and registrations, your family's birth, death, and marriage records, and documentation on the chain of title to your real property here in Dickinson County. These things are far too important to bundle into an already extremely busy auditor's duties of voter registration, elections and financial oversight. I encourage you to retain your elected recorder, and not to sign the petition currently circulating.

Having a full slate of local elected officials -- and keeping them accountable every step of the way -- is your best guarantee of a government that is fiscally conservative yet innovative, reasonable yet visionary, and always ready and able to promote the best our counties have to offer.

I wish you the best in making this decision for yourselves, and I hope you maintain the structure of government that has served you so well in the beautiful Iowa lakes region.

Sincerely,

Kimberly A. Painter

Johnson County Recorder and past-president of the Iowa State Association of Counties