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Union County Clerk

Joanne Rajoppi

Reports $660,000

Increase in Revenue Over 1995

The Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi reported that 1996 was one of the highest revenue generating years in the history of the office.

More than $3,372,000 in revenue for the county was realized, which is more than $560,000 than was projected for 1996 and represents a 20 percent increase from 1995. This is the highest revenue generated by this office since 1988, she said.

The County Clerk attributes the increase to the more than 10 percent increase in property and business recordings along with an Increase in public access hours.

One of the clear motivators in terms of increases in other document recordings can be attributed, the Clerk reports, to the additional resources made available to the public to process their documents.

"We extended our public access hours," Ms. Rajoppi reported, "another 20 percent at no extra cost. This stimulated a tremendous increase in passport application processing."

More than 16,500 passports were processed by her office in 1996 compared to 14,500 in 1995.

Overall, there was a 15 percent increase in the filings of documents in 1996 compared to 1995.

In addition to the consolidation, the County Clerk was given additional mandated duties in 1996. Previous to 1996, the County Clerk had election responsibilities for two elections each year, the Primary and General Election. In December of 1995, legislation was signed mandating that the County Clerks’ duties expand to include school board elections, both regular and special, including the preparation and mailing of sample ballots.

Ms. Rajoppi said the cost of the school board elections were reimbursed to the county by the school boards.

Additionally, Miss Rajoppi saved $20,000 in postage costs through initiation of a new type of mailing permit used for sample ballots in 1996. It is estimated that the use of this mailing permit in 1997 for the school board, primary and general elections will generate savings in excess of $45,000.

Last April the Office of the Register was merged into the Office of County Clerk by legislation signed into law by Governor Christine Todd Whitman. Ms. Rajoppi had served as Register of Deeds for 12 years prior to 1996. As Register, her responsibilities included the recording and filing of all land documents within the 21 municipalities of the county. By merging the two offices of Register and County Clerk, the responsibilities now include the recording of land documents previously handled by the Register along with the duties of the County Clerk which include business and trade name filings, processing passport applications, the issuance of A.B.C. identification cards, and the election responsibilities. The merger of the two offices increased staff level responsibility from 26 to 39; document transaction types processed increased from 18 to 33, the Clerk noted.

The consolidation of the two offices has permitted the Clerk to initiate a streamlining of procedures and efficiency of filings along with cutting some costs. Ms. Rajoppi reported that more than $200,000 in salaries was saved in 1996 through the consolidation of dual offices (Register and County Clerk; Deputy Register and Deputy Clerk), and downgrading of two positions and vacancies which were not filled for part of the year.

The merger permits the cross-training of staff between the recording functions of the former Register's office with the business functions of the Clerk's staff. This cross-training will assist with staff deployment in times of shortages due to illness, vacation and/or family leave, the County Clerk stated.

While the merger has realized concrete dollar and cents savings to taxpayers, other less noticeable but equally important savings have been initiated, the County Clerk reported. Prior to the merger, the Offices of Register and County Clerk necessitated two separate record rooms where important copies of property and documents were kept to be accessed by the public and to conduct property searches for the orderly transfer of property. These documents are the official resource and repository for each property in the county and are utilized by property owners, attorneys, title searchers, genealogists and others.

Ms. Rajoppi has initiated the merger of one centralized record room where all records dealing with property are stored. By mid-1997 one centralized location for records will be completed "realizing a substantial savings to taxpayers and customers," she said.

The County Clerk initiated a two-part merger of the Register's and County Clerk's computer index records. The first, completed in December of 1996, permits customers and title searchers to access both kinds of records from one location. The second part, which will be completed by December, will include a merger of both computer records at one location including records from the period of 1977 to the present.

"Quick, accurate accessibility to records is critically important to the public and to the integrity of their property ownership," the Clerk said. "One central system will afford greater efficiency and save costs."

The Clerk said the new combined maintenance costs of the computer program will save $6,000 this year, compared to 1996 maintenance costs previously needed for the two separate systems.

Merger also means a savings in the administration of the office. With similar functions merged, such as recording of documents, the functions can be streamlined to create a more efficient process, Ms. Rajoppi said. There are 18 different land documents recorded in the Office of County Clerk; 15 documents in the Office of County Clerk. In 1996 an initiation of merging the accounting systems was begun which will provide greater consistency, accuracy and uniformity in recording.

Also initiated in 1996 was an organizational plan to house the two separate offices under one centralized location. In 1995 the Offices of Register and County Clerk housed their functions in five separate locations which decreased service delivery for customers wishing to perform multiple recording tasks in one central location.

Ms. Rajoppi formulated a plan last year to reorganize present space used by the once separate offices into one central location for staff and records. The first part of the plan to relocate records was begun in 1996 and will be completed by mid-1997. The second part to redesign space for staff was begun in 1996 and completion is estimated to be finalized by fall of 1997.

The revised Clerk's office will be a working reality of one-stop shopping housing elections, recording, passports and all documents in one central location. A satellite office will continue to be maintained in Westfield.

Copyright 1997
TheWestfield Leader.
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08/06/97.

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