When you vote in Cook County the general election this fall, which has already started here, you’ll find a question on the ballot asking you if the Recorder of Deeds office should be folded into the Clerk’s office.
The referendum is binding, and would take effect in 2020, the year of an election for a county recorder. There’s an election this year for county recorder and incumbent Karen Yarbrough is the only candidate.
The move will save taxpayer money, according to the Civic Federation, but which Yarbrough doubts. The consolidation is one step towards having a single office manage all of the county’s property records.
Currently four offices – all of which are elected – manage information about property: The recorder keeps track of property ownership and transaction; the assessor determines property value; the treasurer collects property taxes; and the clerk sets the tax rates.
Yarbrough deserves credit for the electronic record keeping innovation she brought to the office. A consolation is a further innovation. Yarbrough is correct that the recorder and clerk offices don’t have overlap, but there are efficiencies that can be devised and implemented as these two offices – along with the other two offices – exist for the same purpose: to collect property taxes.
Chicago Cityscape also advocates that the four property tax offices adopt open data policies that make property ownership, value, and tax rate info accessible.