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County recorders now allowed to pay office expenses with fees, not taxes

Gov. Pence signs bill local official says will protect taxpayers

Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 8:03 am

Gov. Mike Pence this week signed a bill Allen County Recorder John McGauley figures never should have been necessary in the first place – a law that will allow him to continue paying most of his office expenses with fees, not tax dollars.

McGauley’s office records more than 76,000 documents annually, generating about $600,000 in “perpetuation” fees McGauley uses to pay his employees and other expenses, making more general revenue available for other county needs. His office was mostly self-funded in 2013 and will be again this year, and McGauley expects the practice to continue in 2015 and beyond.

But it might not have been possible if not for the bill proposed by Rep. Kathleen Heuer, R-83rd, which came after State Examiner Bruce Hartman notified McGauley that perpetuation funds must be used for “the preservation of records and improvement of record-seeking systems and equipment” but “should not be used to fund normal operating, administrative or accounting functions.” Some county recorders agreed, McGauley said, apparently fearful their general funds would be reduced if their councils thought they could generate more fees.

McGauley and other county officials, however, argued that every employee in the Recorder’s office is somehow involved in preservation of records.

Although smaller counties generate fewer fees than Allen County, the bill applies to recorders in all 92 counties.

“Passage of this bill sends an important message,” McGauley said. “It says that if units of government want to innovate in ways that reduce the burden on taxpayers, it's OK to do so. We cannot look to taxpayers anymore for every dollar that government requires.”