Prop A Myths

Myth: Prop A can remove the elected Recorder of Deeds from office and make her an Assessor employee for the remainder of her term of office. No. It cannot. The Missouri Constitution specifically requires an elected county officer to serve out the term and any consolidation of county-city offices would not take place until the end of that term. Serve out the term means carry out duties of the elected office. Should voters approve Prop A, this would be one of the constitutional issues raised in a lawsuit against the measure.

Myth: Prop A will fund a $1 Million Police Body Camera Program. No. There is no such program in the works. Best estimates are that it would cost $2.2-$1.4 Million a year to fund the program. The City of St. Louis faces a $20 Million budget deficit in the upcoming fiscal year.

Myth: Prop A can eliminate the Office of Recorder of Deeds and move Recorder services to the Assessor. No. It cannot. Voters may consolidate the Recorder with another office but not eliminate the office. Missouri statute requires every county to have a Recorder of Deeds. We cannot have an Assessor with Recorder without the title of Recorder. 113 Missouri counties have an elected Recorder, either Recorder or Circuit Clerk-Recorder in small counties. Jackson County has an appointed Recorder. St. Louis County has a civil service Recorder who reports to an appointed Revenue Director. But all carry the title of Recorder. An independent Recorder’s Office is deemed so important that the Missouri General Assembly created a special fee on deed recordings in larger counties, including St. Louis City, to go to a Statutory County Recorder Fund to subsidize the separation of Circuit Clerks from Recorders in small counties.

Myth: Prop A can fund police body cameras with the Recorder’s Technology Fund. No. The Recorder’s Technology Fund must be spent on technology for the Recorder’s Office. It may not be diverted to any other fund or to General Revenue. Every County Recorder in Missouri collects a special fee that goes to this fund. The St. Louis City Recorder’s computers/databases are funded from this special account. Without the account, City General Revenue would have to be spent on this expense.

Myth: Prop A can fund police body cameras with the Recorder’s Preservation Fund. No. The Recorder’s Preservation Fund must be spent on records preservation. It may not be diverted to any other fund or to General Revenue. Every County Recorder in Missouri collects a special fee that goes to this fund. The St. Louis City Recorder uses this fund for digital scanning equipment, supplies used in preservation best practices (acid free products), and presently has $400,000 saved in the fund toward an estimated $2.5 Million project to bid out digital scanning of older land record books and indices (many over sized for the Recorder’s digital equipment) in the basement of City Hall. A little known fact about Recorders offices in Missouri is that original deed recording books and marriage licenses must be kept in perpetuity. The St. Louis City Recorder maintains records in original paper form, microfilm, and now has 13.6 Million records scanned in digital format on its network.

Myth: Prop A can fund police body cameras by reducing the Recorder’s Staff in the consolidation. No. The Missouri Constitution protects the Recorder’s Staff from dismissal during a consolidation. Besides, they are needed to continue performing the services in compliance with the law.

Myth: Prop A can fund police body cameras by saving money combining the City Assessor’s database and City Recorder’s database. No. Conversion of the two would cost millions. It may not even be possible. Every county in Missouri has a separate Recorder database because of the different types of records indexed and scanned. The Assessor is only concerned with real estate title transfer, not mortgages, tax liens, marriage licenses, etc. and preserving those records in perpetuity. That’s why you can only search Assessor online records by address/parcel number but you can search Recorder online records by address/parcel number, Book & Page, Document Number/Date & Daily, or Name of owner/grantor or buyer/grantee. The Assessor’s database is on the City network. When the City network is down, the Assessor’s database is down. The Recorder’s database is separate and never down.

Myth: A State Audit showed the City Recorder of Deeds wasted $300,000 renovating the office twice. No. The 2015 State Audit (released January 2016) clearly shows the major issue with the 2009 and 2013 renovations (two different areas, different departments each year) related to bidding and hiring of a company related to the Chief Deputy Recorder, who was terminated from employment in 2014. The largest expense from the renovations was new flooring to protect employees, customers, and records from asbestos. The Recorder’s has since implemented a Renovation/Construction Policy and Procurement Policy as recommended by the State Auditor.