What Is Prop A?

Proposition A is ballot issue, by Initiative Petition funded by Right Wing Billionaire Rex Sinquefield, which falsely claims to fund police body cameras with savings from moving Recorder of Deeds services to the Assessor and eliminating the Office of Recorder of Deeds.

Question: How does Prop A work?
Answer: It doesn’t.

Prop A’s Flawed Petition Language would lead to chaos for Deed Recording and Marriage Licence issuance and copies:  In order to provide the services of a Recorder of Deeds Office in Missouri, in any county, you have to have a Recorder of Deeds, an actual person with the title. Prop A seeks to do away with the Recorder of Deeds and move services to the Assessor without the Assessor being named Recorder.

The Recorder can be…

  • Elected (as is in 113 of 115 Missouri Counties including St. Louis City), or
  • Appointed by an executive (as is in Jackson County), or
  • A civil servant (as is St. Louis County where the Recorder works for the Revenue Director who works for the County Executive).

But someone has to have the title “Recorder of Deeds” and Prop A seeks to eliminate the title: Without a Recorder, there is no one to issue Marriage Licenses or record deeds in the name of the Recorder. Without a Recorder, there is no Recorder’s seal for certification of copies (legal copies for court and other matters).

Prop A is a Body Cam Funding Scam: Even if the initiative petition had been written properly and sought to create an Office of Assessor-Recorder, there is little, if any, cost savings to fund police body cameras from such a consolidation.

Under the Missouri Constitution, had the petition been written properly, the Recorder would serve out her term and continue administering her duties until the end of term on Jan. 1, 2019. That salary would not be freed up until then. There could be no consolidation of services until 2019. The petition falsely claims the process would begin immediately.

  • Savings from Recorder’s Salary if Prop A had been properly written: $97,000
  • Reduced Staff Cost Savings if Prop A had been properly written : $0.00. 88% of the Recorder’s Budget is Staff, $2.5 Million. Under the Missouri Constitution, the Staff currently employed in the Recorder’s Office would be protected from lay offs in a consolidation of services. More important, the Staff would be needed to continue doing all their jobs because the Assessor’s Office and Recorder’s Office have little in common. No one in the Assessor’s Office is trained to do anything in the Recorder’s Office. It’s particularly troubling that an office with zero experience in public records conservation and preservation was chosen as the consolidation vehicle for an office that does enormous conservation and preservation work.
  • Reduced Equipment Cost Savings if Prop A had been properly written: $0.00. Equipment is $22,000 of the Recorder’s Budget. The only way you reduce equipment costs is is you reduce customer services. If you reduce the number of copiers/printers, then you increase over the counter copy services from a few minutes to much, much longer.
  • Reduced Supplies Cost Savings if Prop A had been properly written: $0.00. Materials and Supplies are $35,250 of the Recorder’s Budget. Very hard to reduce use of, for example, paper and ink cartridges in an office that is responsible for making and certifying paper copies. The office already requires, and enforces where it can, return postage by mail customers.
  • Reduced Contractual Cost Savings: $0.00. Contractual Services is $286,743 of the Recorder’s Budget. These costs include technology/hardware and $70,000 annual to the State of Missouri to access Vital Records, which produce $900,000 annual in copy fees to the City’s General Revenue Fund. Most technology costs are born by the Recorder’s Technology Account, a special statutory fund, not City General Revenue. Regarding technology, it would actually cost more to consolidate the two offices data, Millions of dollars to convert the Recorder’s database with images to the City system and accommodate new Recorder transactions. The two databases have real estate title transfers in common but nothing else. Considering how often the City’s network goes down, the public has been better served by the Recorder’s data not being hosted by the City and customers able to search no matter what.

$2,200,000   Cost of Police Body Cam Pilot Program
$      97,000   Recorder’s Salary Savings if Prop A properly written
$2,103,000   Still Needed for Body Cam Program            

Prop A Would Result in Loss of Birth & Death Certificate Services at City Hall: Under Missouri law, the City’s Recorder of Deeds is also its Vital Records Registrar. The reason Birth and Death Certificate copies are purchased at City Hall in St. Louis City instead of the Health Department is because in 2002, Mayor Francis G. Slay, Recorder Sharon Quigley Carpenter, Comptroller Darlene Green, and State Senator Harry Kennedy, worked together to consolidate Vital Records with the Recorder. The consolidation was viewed by the City as a way to clean up a mess and provide higher customer service and financial accountability. It has become the most popular service at City Hall. As a Health Department service, Vital Records produced $400,000 to City General Revenue. As a Recorder of Deeds service, Vital Records produces $900,000 annual to General Revenue. Consolidation of Vital Records with the Recorder is also how City Hall became the only county government building in Missouri where Vital Records, Marriage Records, Land Records, Tax Waiver/Payment, and Missouri Photo ID/License/License Plate renewal are all located on one floor in one building. In all other counties, those services are in three buildings. If there is no Recorder of Deeds for the State to appoint as Vital Records Registrar, Vital Records services would return to the Health Department and there would no longer be One Stop Shopping for records at City Hall.