2012 election candidate questionnaire: Barbara Frasca, Champaign County recorder
Barbara A. Frasca
3305 Springview Lane, Champaign 61822
Date of birth: Feb. 19, 1961
Education: BS Elementary education, University of Illinois 1984
Occupation: Champaign County Recorder of Deeds. Former teacher.
Political experience: Has served four terms as recorder, starting in 1996.
1. What qualifies you to be the Champaign County Recorder?
My job experience with the Champaign County Recorder's office qualifies me to be re-elected Recorder. My knowledge of the issues regarding land recordation throughout the state of Illinois and nationally is extensive. I have been elected Champaign County Recorder since 1996. I have gained the reputation for being on the cutting edge of new technology; being one of the first counties in Illinois to begin electronic recording of documents and incorporating a state of the art computer system which allows for Internet access to users 24/7. The Champaign County Recorder's office is the first in the state to install a system whereby we are able to sell copies to title plants directly, cutting out the middleman, bringing more revenue home to the county and, even more importantly, granting us greater control over the distribution of information. I have served on several statewide panels including the committee which worked with the secretary of state to develop the Electronic Recording Commission. I have also played an integral part in discussions with the Illinois Department of Revenue on developing a system for electronic transfer payments. I am very proud to have been of assistance to the Illinois attorney general in her lawsuit against some of the biggest banks in the country regarding the illegal practice of "robosigning." I have played an active role within the office as well. I participate daily in the work of recording documents. This allows me an insight into the office makeup, what works and what doesn't, as well as where our next area of concern night be. I take pride in the fact that I wait on customers, find documents, do recordings, answer questions and am able to manage the office with efficiency and a tight bottom line.
2. Are there any specific qualifications for the office?
As the elected Recorder you are a department head within Champaign County. An understanding of accounting and budgeting is a must. We take in anywhere from $2,000 to more than $30,000 a day in revenue. The money is broken down into 11 different funds, all with different qualifiers. Our annual revenue stream for general corporate and special automation funds surpasses $2 million, with expenditures of approximately $300,000. An in-depth study of economic factors, banking, commerce and the real estate market is the key to creating an accurate accounting of future revenue and expenditure lines; knowing how much money will be coming into the county through real estate sales and how much it is going to cost to get the work done in the most efficient manner. Consequently an understanding of the often complex real estate and banking communities is vital. We record many types of documents, such as mortgages, releases, assignments, subordination agreements, etc. Awareness of what these documents are and how they relate to one another is the cornerstone of our office. As a department head you must also be able to manage personnel and personnel issues. Experience in human resources should be a qualification for the office, as you do not have much support in this area from within the county. As the Champaign County Recorder you are an elected official so experience in public service is a must. Balancing the public's needs with your ability to meet these needs within the construct of the state statute is vital. The Recorder needs to have a working knowledge of computers, networking, storage and media, and be willing to stay abreast of new technologies in all these areas. The change in the technology within our office since I began in 1996 is tremendous and noteworthy.
3. Are there changes needed within the Recorder's office?
The Recorder of Deeds office is always in a state of flux; changes in state law and technology mean that you must be adaptable and an excellent problem-solver. We have always been severely understaffed in the Recorder's office as compared to comparable Illinois counties. The deputy clerks are miracle workers in how much energy they put forth to maintain our high level of public service while facing a deluge of daily work. We are proud that we have created such a productive workplace and that we are able to record documents and return them immediately with the same staffing levels that were in place when I was elected in 1996. At that time it took six weeks to get a document recorded and returned.
4. Does the office need a budget increase or is a budget cut required? Please explain why.
Our office works on a shoestring. We have not had an increase in our general corporate budget in several years, with a cut in the budget in the not too distant past. We are able to continue providing excellent service by using our special automation budget in many varied ways. The automation budget receives money from every document that is recorded. The money is used to automate the office, in other words, to advance it technologically. Since every part of what we do and produce is done by way of computer technology, this fund is critically important; without it the county would be forced to increase our general corporate expenditure lines dramatically. It would be nice to have added money to work more aggressively at back-indexing documents from the 1800s and early 1900s, as well as converting all of the old books into electronic images. The budgetary constraints at this time, however, do not allow for that.
5. Are state legislative changes needed to help the office run more efficiently?
I am very proud of the legislative work that I have done since becoming Recorder. Most recently this past legislative session we worked to pass a bill into law stating that images of recorded documents may now be stored electronically versus the outdated microfilming. Microfilm is incredibly expensive and viewing it has become more and more difficult as companies have stopped manufacturing and repairing microfilm reader/printers. Examining the statutes and the reasons why we perform certain tasks is a key function of what I view my job as Recorder to be. This legislation will save the county thousands of dollars a year and still provide excellent service to the constituents. We have been attempting to address the topic of purchasing transfer tax stamps electronically from the Department of Revenue. This would also save the county thousands of dollars but it has met with fierce opposition from the Illinois Department of Revenue which now gets paid for tax stamps in advance of their usage. I will continue to work with the IDOR on this topic and hope for a resolution. We are also working on passing legislation which requires banks to file assignments of mortgages within the county in which the property is located; part of the collapse of the housing market and its repercussions stem from lenders using the Mortgage Electronic Recording System (or MERS) to record assignments. This is a privately owned property recordation company whose mission was to keep track of mortgages and how, when and to whom they are sold on the secondary market. Many times these assignments were not recorded and therefore there was a break in the chain of title. Recording assignments in the county will mean less red tape for property owners and it will allow them to known which entity owns the mortgage on their property. Even though you may still be paying First Main Bank, your mortgage could have unknowingly been sold two or more times. You should have a right to know this. We are still working to safeguard that right.
6. Do you think that the office should be consolidated into another county office? Why or why not?
No, I do not think that this office should be consolidated into another office. I have spoken around the state on this very topic. I spoke in front of the county boards of Cook and Peoria counties as well as to the state recorder's commission in Indiana. Cook County and Peoria County both voted to put the topic of consolidation on the ballot. I also have lectured at several of our state conferences regarding the importance of maintaining a standalone recorder of deeds. The foundation of our civilization is the ability to own and capitalize property. Think about the largest investment that you make in your lifetime: for most people that will be the purchase of their home. When we prepare for large expenditures, such as to send our children to college, pay for a wedding, tackle medical bills, purchase rental properties, whatever the cost, we tend to use the capital in our properties to pay for these expenses. This is not an office that you want swept under the rug. The county clerk likely will always be more interested in elections than property recording. I have seen it in our organization. Smaller counties in the state only have a clerk/recorder simply because they do not have that many recordings. These officeholders leave the recordings up to clerks, in many cases these offices have not even updated computers. The Tazewell County clerk recently sent out a help email. They voted last year to consolidate the offices and she is panicking now because she doesn't know how to budget or manage the recording end of her office. They have also now downgraded the amount they think they will save to less than $20,000. I doubt they will save even that.
7. Should the recorder remain an elected office? Why or why not?
I strongly believe that the Recorder should remain an elected office. We are doing the people's business and as such we should be dependent on those people for our positions. The people of Champaign County should have a choice in selecting whom they believe will do the best job safeguarding their most valuable records, not some appointed crony of a particular political party. This country was founded on a government by and for the people. Taking away the constituencies' right to stand up and be counted does not make for better or more efficient government; it may, however, cheapen government ... but not in a good way.