Great Moments In Public Deliberation

by Mark Scaramella, December 30, 2009

JaundicedEyeThe following is a verbatim transcript of an exchange between County Supervisor John McCowen and Mendocino County Assessor-Clerk Recorder Susan Ranochak at the Board of Supervisors Meeting, December 15, 2009. The topic was a series of fee increases in Public Defender, District Attorney, Court Collections and County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor offices.

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Supervisor McCowen: Are these fees being raised to the, to the amount that is being identified as the actual cost? That is, if we identify the cost as $11.50 and we can raise it to $11.50, are we doing that? Or are we raising it to $10? Or?

Deputy CEO Jennifer Wyatt: All of the fees have been reviewed by the Auditor Controller's Office as to being in compliance with Prop 218 on the estimated cost. Um, so, yes, the majority, um, the fees, um, as raised, um, are being, um, raised to the maximum amount, or to the maximum amount allowable based on the fees that were, um, approved by the state and have been reviewed by the Auditor as such.

McCowen: But I'm looking at the recording fee. The current fee is $4 and the proposed fee is $9 and I have a note which must have come from the detail pages that says the cost is actually $11.

Wyatt: I'm going to let Sue Ranochak answer that.

Ranochak: Sue Ranochak, Assessor County Clerk Recorder. Um, the actual fee, um, that I'm requesting today is for the recording portion of the document. So we do charge $4 for the first page for the recording. You are correct. That's not the entire fee that's charged for recording a document in my office. But the $9 reflects the actual… The actual county cost to record the document. We came up with a cost of $8.46 and the $9 reflects that. We have an additional $4 charge that's broken out by $1 for meeting the requirements to index. Timely. To support our micrographics department is another $1. To support modernization, to keep the recorder's office open, and the social security truncation is the remaining dollar. So the fee will actually go up to $13 for the first page.

McCowen: So then, the answer if I understand it correctly is Yes, we are charging full cost recovery?

Ranochak: No. We are not. I have only requested $5. I can charge up to, um, of $10, not to exceed $10. I'm only requesting $9.

McCowen: And what was our calcuated cost?

Ranochak: $8.46.

McCowen: Then why aren't we charging at least $8? Why only $5?

Ranochak: The total cost… We charge $4 now.

McCowen: I was…

Ranochak: I'm increasing the total cost to $9.

McCowen: So of the $8.46…?

Ranochak: So in other words, prior… If you so desire to approve this fee, prior to that the $4 we were actually losing $4.46 every time we recorded a document. If you raise the fee to $9 we'll be gaining $.54. Does that…? Does that… help?

McCowen: My question is how much is left on the table? If any?

Ranochak: Of… The actual cost of staffing?

McCowen: Of what you could charge, justified by the actual cost to the county.

Ranochak: How much is left on the table? Well, the actual cost to the county to record the first page of a document is $8.46. Maybe I don't understand your question.

McCowen: Ok, well, my question is, within the limits…

Ranochak: Mmm-hmmm.

McCowen: That are allowed by statute…

Ranochak: Right.

McCowen: Is the county charging an amount that would recover the county's cost?

Ranochak: Yes. If you…

McCowen: And so we are not having it in effect a discounted rate?

Ranochak: No.

McCowen: OK, that was the question.

Ranochak: Ok.

McCowen: Thank you.

Ranochak: (Laughs.)

McCowen: God that was hard. With that clarification I'll move the recommended action.

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The "recommended action" was approval of all the increased fees in all the offices. The Supervisors asked no other questions about any of the other fees being increased, although we're pretty sure the discussion would have been equally amusing and the outcome would have been the same.

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