December 22, 2005

Circuit Clerk and Recorder of Deeds Position To Split Into Two Offices

Financial considerations from the state and increasing workloads combined with a statewide movement to separate counties’ record keeping from the state court systems has led to a change in Scotland County.

On November 2 the Scotland County Commission officially voted to create the new office of Scotland County Recorder. This move marks a split in the old office of Circuit Clerk and Recorder of Deeds. Meaning in essence the one job has now become two.

While many third class counties have struggled with increasing demands for services and shrinking or stagnant revenue base, the Recorder of Deeds offices continue to produce much needed funds. Since the passage of Senate Bill 288 in 2001, which was advocated by the County Recorder’s Association, more than $5.5 million has been redistributed to 50 third class counties across Missouri. The funding flows from the “Statutory Recorders’ Fund” created more than four years ago. This fund shifts resources from larger first class counties to the smaller counties.

This special fund was originally intended to provide an incentive for counties to create a separate Recorder of Deeds office. Since 2002, the fund has created a windfall in the vast majority of third class counties who elected to separate the position into two offices. On average, the counties that made the change, receive more than $38,000 from the Statutory Recorders’ Fund” annually to be assigned by the county commission.

The level of subsidy paid to each county is based on the number of documents the county records annually. The maximum subsidy payment a county may receive is $55,000. The estimated payment Scotland County will receive is $51,700.

The Scotland County Commission highlighted this revenue source when making the final decision to create the new post.

“The reimbursement will more than pay for the salary of the new County Recorder position,” said Presiding Commissioner Mike Stephenson. “It could also pay for a deputy as well as the office expenses. Anytime we can add jobs to our community, it is a win for Scotland County.”

Any county which creates a separate county recorder office and does not record at least 27,500 documents annually is eligible for the state subsidy, meaning virtually every third class county like Scotland County, is eligible to receive aid from the fund.

In addition to the financial benefit of creating the separate officer, property owners will also see results. Recorders are responsible for preservation of property deeds and other key documents such as marriage licenses and military discharge records. During the past several years the functions of recording and preserving documents has advanced significantly. The recorder of deeds will now have time to focus solely on this office.

The transition will also allow the circuit clerk office to undergo a transition. Plans are underway at the courthouse to create a more centralized court system. This means the Associate Circuit Court and the Circuit Court recording offices basically will be combined, bringing the office workers from the associate division into the fold in the circuit clerk’s office.

The transition means the new office of Scotland County Recorder of Deeds will appear for the first time on the 2006 general election ballot in Scotland County. Filing for the new job will begin February 28th for the August primary.

For more information on the transition, the public is encouraged to stop by the courthouse and visit with Anita Watkins, Scotland County Circuit Clerk and Ex-Officio Recorder of Deeds.

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