Recorder of Deeds Sharon Birkman

Franklin County Recorder of Deeds Sharon Birkman reiterated Monday that she does not mind helping the county’s general fund by providing money out of a special fund.

Moreover, Birkman cited the state statute that allows her to keep a portion of document filing fees in her records preservation fund.

Last week, Birkman agreed to release $78,350 from the fund to pay for contractual costs in her budget instead of those expenses being paid by the general fund.

This will minimize general fund expenses as officials look to balance the budget and give employee pay raises.

First District Commissioner Tim Brinker asked Birkman if she would be willing to release some of the money in the records preservation fund. He said he did not think it was fair for her to have more than $100,000 sitting in the fund.

But Birkman said the money is there to help her with various expenses such as technology costs.

Last week, Birkman originally agreed to release $82,000 from the fund to cover contractual costs in her 2014 budget but later reduced it to $78,350.

Birkman said she does not mind sharing the money in the fund but wants it known that the general fund already gets a substantial amount of money from fees people pay for filing documents, ranging from deeds to marriage licenses, in her office.

For 2013, the filing fees are estimated to generate $936,000, and about $550,793 of that will go to the general fund, she said.

“I don’t mind sharing my money,” Birkman said. “How much are they going to take from me?”

Some of the filing fees go to the state retirement fund, children’s trust fund, state housing trust and the state preservation fund, Birkman noted.

She explained that state statute says $2 of the filing fee “shall be retained by the recorder and deposited in a recorder’s fund and not in county general revenue for record storage, microfilming, and preservation ...”

In addition, she also gets $1.25 from the filing fees to help with technology costs.

The combination of the two fees go to her records preservation fund, which is estimated to collect about $72,000 in 2013, she said.

The fund was projected to have a balance of $182,000 at the end of next year prior to Birkman agreeing to release the $78,350, according to Brinker.

Birkman noted that the statute gives her full authority over that fund. The statute says the money in that fund should only be spent “at the direction of the recorder and shall not be used to substitute for or subsidize any allocation of general revenue for the operation of the recorder’s office without the express consent of the recorder.”

Birkman said, “I just want everyone to know that I have been following the state statute.”

She noted that she has shared the money in her records preservation fund before to help give raises.

Now that she has agreed to release a substantial amount of money from the records preservation fund, she worries that she may not have the needed reserves if an emergency happens such as a computer server failing.

“What concerns me is that the recording fees are way down, and I don’t expect them to go up next year,” Birkman said. “If something goes wrong then I am not going to have any extra revenue to fall back on.”

She noted that her office depends heavily on technology and has 377 million images saved on computer servers.

“This is no cheap operation in here,” Birkman said.

The filing fees are $27 for the first page and $3 for each additional page, she noted.

She thinks filing fees could go down next year since she does not see home sales going up, thereby reducing deeds.