WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Board members asked few questions and expressed no opposition Thursday regarding a proposed referendum to abolish the recorder’s office.
Board members will vote Tuesday evening whether to put the referendum to voters on the March 2018 primary ballot. But their lack of concerns at Thursday’s nonvoting Committee of the Whole meeting indicated that they likely will move forward the plan.
The resolution board members will vote on was drafted by Recorder Joe Tirio, a Republican who won election on a platform to eliminate the office, as well as Republican County Clerk Mary McClellan and board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo. Like they did at a committee meeting in which the resolution was moved forward, all three vocally supported the initiative before the full County Board.
“Reducing the tax burden in McHenry County for years and decades to come is going to require thinking outside the box and putting aside the notion that we can make long-term tax relief sustainable without thoroughly rethinking the way we do things,” Franks said.
Should voters approve the referendum, the office of recorder will be merged into the county clerk’s office and will cease to exist Dec. 1, 2020, the day after Tirio’s first – and therefore last – term as recorder expires.
The recorder’s office, which has 3.4 million documents on file, is responsible for recording, retrieving and maintaining land records and real estate transactions, subdivision plans, military discharge papers and other records.
Most of the state’s 102 counties have a combined clerk and recorder’s office because state law requires a county to have at least 60,000 people to separate them. But with the advance of scanning and computer storage technology, several of the handful of counties with separate offices have consolidated them as a cost-cutting measure.
Tirio, McClellan and Franks support asking the question in March rather than the November election to give both offices and county staff an extra seven months, should voters approve the plan, to prepare.
It also would allow those preparations to be factored into the budget for 2019.
Only two board members asked questions regarding the potential consolidation.
Don Kopsell, R-Crystal Lake, asked about how county office space might be allocated with a consolidation. James Kearns, R-Huntley, expressed concern about what could happen to the process should Tirio run against McClellan next year for county clerk. McClellan’s first term expires next year.
“We could have a big mess here if you two start fighting … over your offices,” Kearns said.
Tirio said after the meeting that he has been contemplating a run for county clerk, but said that both he and McClellan would not take their eyes off the prize of eliminating the recorder’s office.
“There is no reason why Ms. McClellan and I, if we were to find ourselves in opposition of one another, can’t carry on business like responsible adults and get the work of the people done,” he said.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Government Consolidation voted last week, 6-0, to recommend putting the referendum on the March ballot.
However, one or two County Board members have indicated they might vote against the measure in favor of putting it on the November ballot, where they argue turnout will be higher.
McClellan and supporters of a March referendum have argued that referendums drive up voter turnout.
Voters in other counties have chosen to eliminate their recorder’s offices in recent years. Recorder’s offices were consolidated in 2011 in Tazewell County, in 2012 in McLean County, in 2014 in Peoria County and last year in Cook County.