Madison County voters will have a chance to decide if they want to eliminate the recorder's office to save costs, a move supporters of the office say is irresponsible.
County Board members on Wednesday approved a county-wide referendum for the Nov. 6 general election ballots.
If the referendum passes, the recorder's office would be merged with the county clerk’s office in December 2020.
The vote passed 21-6 with two board members absent. Democrats Michael “Doc” Holliday Sr., Bruce Malone, Jack Minner, Arthur Asadorian, Larry Trucano and independent Robert Pollard voted no.
Chrissy Dutton, a Republican County Board member from Bethalto, began floating the idea to county committees last year. The issue was revived in January and then discussed at February's board meeting, though it didn't come up for a vote until Wednesday's meeting.
Merging the recorder's office with the county clerk's office could save the county at least $100,000 by eliminating the recorder's elected position and the salary that comes with it, Dutton says.
The office’s employees would continue their work. Only the recorder’s elected position would be eliminated.
But Recorder Amy Meyer said eliminating the position won't save taxpayer dollars because the office, and her salary, are funded by fees the office generates, meaning cuts to her salary would not be tax-based.
“I’m a resident of Madison County, and I value our government, and I value what our office does,” Meyer said. “It’s unfortunate that the board has decided to do what is politically in vogue in following what other counties have done.”
McHenry County voters approved merging the two offices Tuesday, while Tazewell County near Peoria recently merged the offices. Only 16 of 25 qualifying counties in Illinois have separate offices.
Merging the office is popular statewide because it’s a straightforward way to save at least one salary along with thousands of dollars in benefits, according to County Board member Tom McRae, a Republican from Bethalto.
“I think we could easily save $150,000. Even if it’s $100,000, that’s a million over 10 years,” McRae said. “It isn't anything against anyone in particular. The people who do the day-to-day operations are going to be there.”
Other County Board members, like Arthur Asadorian, a Democrat from Granite City, said they would like to see more information.
Asadorian asked for “a valid study, numbers, facts, savings.”
“I'd like to be more informed of this. I don't see any effect other than saving a person's salary, and this person was elected by the people,” Asadorian said.
Philip Chapman, a Republican from Highland, said he believes the voters will make the right decision.
“The voters of Madison County are smart enough to figure out whether to abolish this position after a robust public discussion,” Chapman said.
Meyer earned $109,990.40 in 2016, according to the Belleville News-Democrat’s public pay database.
The yes-or-no question to go before voters will read: "Shall the Office of the Madison County Recorder of Deeds be eliminated and all duties and responsibilities of the Office of the Madison County Recorder of Deeds be transferred to, and assumed by, the Office of the Madison County Clerk by December 7, 2020."
In other business
The Board once again postponed a vote on nominees to the Mental Health Board.
Two nominees, David Nosacka and Jackie Clement, were named, but County Board members expressed concern about exactly how many people were legally allowed to be nominated.
Chairman Kurt Prenzler previously decided to withdraw two other nominees to the board amid controversy about their religious beliefs.
Nominations to the board should be staggered, but they went off-schedule at some point, creating confusion about how many people should be appointed at a single time.
Board members voted to postpone the vote until the April meeting.
A licensed counselor from Glen Carbon, Jean McGurk O’Brien, spoke against the two nominees at Wednesday’s meeting, saying they are not qualified to serve on the board because they do not have any clinical mental health experience.
“Mental health is a widely diverse and complex area,” McGurk O’Brien said. “It seems to me the county needs to take this area seriously. None of Mental Health Board members have mental health background, education or experience. That seems ridiculous to me.”
In other actions, the Board passed a symbolic resolution to support tariffs imposed on imported steel products. The parent company of the Granite City Works steel mill announced earlier this month it would rehire 500 laid-off workers after President Donald Trump called for the tariffs.
Julie M. Redmond was nominated to the State Park Place Street Light District to complete the unexpired term of Charles Redmond, who passed away.
Kelly Schmidt was nominated to a four-year term to the Madison County Mass Transit District to replace Daniel Corbett.