Referendum to eliminate McHenry County Recorder's Office starts advancing Friday

WOODSTOCK – A promised referendum to eliminate the McHenry County Recorder’s Office will go before voters next March if the County Board gives its approval.

Its Ad-Hoc Committee on Government Consolidation will meet Friday morning to vote on a resolution to put the question on the March 20 primary ballot. Recorder Joe Tirio, County Board Chairman Jack Franks and County Clerk Mary McClellan will be there in support of the proposal.

Should voters approve the plan, the office of recorder would be consolidated into the county clerk’s office with the Dec. 1, 2020, end of Tirio’s first, and therefore last, term. Tirio, a Republican, won election in November on a platform of abolishing the office.

“It’s very exciting. I think we have a lot of opportunity – much of it is good news, but some of those opportunities come with certain challenges. I have a good plan to get us into a position where we should be able to take advantage of a number of cost-saving opportunities and create very little extra work for the clerk,” Tirio said.

Should the committee give the referendum a favorable recommendation, it will go before the full County Board for a formal vote at its June 20 meeting.

The county recorder’s office is responsible for recording, retrieving and maintaining land records and real estate transactions, subdivision plans, military discharge certificates and other records. It has 3.4 million documents on file dating back to the county’s 1839 founding with its current borders.

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 voters in several of the Illinois counties that had created two separate offices have opted in recent years to merge them as a cost-cutting measure, as modern technology made it more feasible.

All three countywide elected officials said running the referendum in March rather than the November 2018 midterm election will give the county an extra eight months to plan should the voters approve consolidation.

McClellan also said that a March referendum would give the county the voters’ answer at the start of the process by which it starts developing its 2019 budget. She, along with Tirio and Franks, supports the initiative.

“I think that consolidating the offices has its benefits. With the efficiencies I’ve seen and brought forward in my term, I feel consolidation would ultimately benefit all of McHenry County,” said McClellan, a Republican.

Franks, D-Marengo, said a March referendum would mean more time to plan on how to combine the offices should voters agree to merge them. A longtime champion of consolidating units of government and government offices during his time as a state representative, Franks tied the potential cost savings into his ongoing plan to cut next year’s tax levy for county government by 10 percent.

“McHenry County residents want elected leaders to focus on lowering their tax burden and making the economy grow. We should build off of the momentum we have created by working together to reduce next year’s property tax levy and give taxpayers the opportunity to bring long-term government spending down so they will see sustainable savings for years to come,” Franks said.

Voters in other counties have voted 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 in Cook County last year.

Two counties with the requisite populations of at least 60,000, DeKalb and Kendall, still have a merged clerk and recorder office because their respective voters rejected splitting them in two.

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