Voters to decide on consolidation of county clerk, recorder offices

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ROCKFORD - A referendum question asking voters if they want to consolidate the offices of the Winnebago County Clerk and Recorder of Deeds will be on the March ballot.

The Winnebago County Board voted 14 to 4 on Dec. 7 to put the referendum question on the primary election ballot on March 20, which comes months after a 36-page report outlined the feasibility of consolidation of the offices.

Any combination wouldn't take place until 2020.

Board Chairman Frank Haney said previously he wanted to eliminate the recorder's position and put all recorder operations under clerk's control.

"It is one small step in a long line of structure changes and reforms that we need to make in order to provide the best possible service to taxpayers at the lowest possible cost," Haney said.

Recorder of Deeds Nancy McPherson, who has worked in the position for the last nine years and who will not seek re-election, said she believes the consolidation effort is a politically motivated plan.

"This is a political move, and a political move only," McPherson said.

McPherson called the report presented in October to board members "empty words" with the document not tackling any cost-benefit analysis of combining the offices. In Haney's Dec. 7 presentation, he noted the consolidation would save over $100,000 annually when salary, benefits and pension factors were considered.

The recorder's office handles land records, military records and all liens, while the clerk's office handles elections, marriage licenses, tax extension/redemption and county board record keeping. "None of our duties have overlap at all," McPherson said.

Current County Clerk Margie Mullins announced she will resign effective Jan. 31. She has served as clerk for 11 years and has been an employee of Winnebago County for 36 years. Mullins has not taken a public stance on consolidation of the offices.

Ahead of her resignation, Mullins stated she would not seek a fourth term as clerk. Mullins' term expires with the November 2018 general election.

The primary election for the clerk's post will be on March 20. Four candidates will be on the primary election ballot.

The Winnebago County Board will declare the clerk's position vacant at its Jan. 11 meeting.

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