MAHONING COUNTY A million reasons to love the recorder's office

The recorder's budget request is less than he spent last year.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Recorder's office brought in more than $1 million in fees for the county's general fund for the second straight year.
Recorder Ronald Gerberry says he's pleased with the number, but he's concerned the loss of sales tax money could result in staff cuts that could hinder his operation and cost the county more money.
The half-percent sales tax, defeated in March and November, ended in 2004. It brought in between $13 million and $14 million a year to the general fund.
Commissioners are expected to begin budget hearings for general fund departments in the middle of this month. The county will have about $38 million to spend this year, but requests have come in around $57 million.
Gerberry said the recorder's office handled 54,917 documents in 2004, a decline from the record 73,426 handled in 2003.
A small drop
The recorder's office took in $1.67 million in 2003, but the figure dropped to $1.28 million last year.
The recorder said the 2003 document numbers were up because more people were refinancing home mortgages because of favorable interest rates that year.
The reduction in recording instruments such as liens, powers of attorney and deeds in 2004, however, resulted in a corresponding decrease in money coming to the county, he said.
Under Ohio law, a $4 fee is included in the cost of recording documents at the recorder's office. That money is set aside and by law must be used only for improving technology in the office as well as preserving the county's land records, Gerberry said.
Memo sent
In November, Gerberry sent a memorandum of understanding to commissioners saying he would continue to provide a portion of his user fees to supplement the general fund because of the county's financial straits.
He contributed more than $57,000 in 2003 to pay for operations historically funded by the general fund. He plans to put $125,000 in user fees to help out the general fund this year.
This is a temporary measure and not intended to be done over the long run, he added.
The user fee, in essence, helped cut the general fund appropriation for the recorder's office. Thus, the office spent $572,223 last year, and he has only requested $562,793 for 2005.
Gerberry said he told incoming commissioners Anthony Traficanti and John McNally IV that they could give him what they can and the office will operate with what it gets.
He reminded them, however, he has cut staff to the bare minimum.
Gerberry said when he took office in 2001, there were 12 employees. Now there are 10. Further staff reductions would make it difficult to maintain the level of services he's now providing.
The recorder must have documents filed 24 hours after they are received. The office has been consistent in having those documents returned to their respective parties in seven to 10 days.
Staff cuts or reduced hours of operation would result in backlogs and also could reduce the number of documents that could be filed daily.
That reduction would impact the amount of money the recorder's office could contribute to the general fund, Gerberry said.

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