WOODLAND — Yolo County supervisors on Tuesday directed staff to move ahead with a proposal to consolidate the county assessor’s office with that of the clerk-recorder in an effort to improve efficiency and save money.
State law allows supervisors to consolidate the offices through an ordinance but the consolidation would not take place until after the current elected office-holders complete their terms.
Both Assessor Joel Butler and Clerk/Recorder Freddie Oakley will be up for re-election in June and their terms expire at the end of 2014. Oakley said Tuesday she will seek re-election whether the offices are consolidated or not; Butler said he has not decided whether he will run again and the consolidation proposal “could have an impact on that decision.”
According to Assistant County Administrator Dirk Brazil, 26 counties throughout the state have a combined assessor-recorder office. Sixteen of them include the clerk’s functions in that office while eight have added the registrar of voters to the combined department.
“Clearly, one size does not fit all,” Brazil told supervisors, adding, “What we will come back to you with is what we believe will be best for Yolo County.”
The fact that both the assessor and recorder focus largely on property-related services and documents is what makes the consolidation feasible and “it does seem like a good fit,” said Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis.
The primary duty of the elected county assessor is to set property values while the recorder’s office files and maintains public documents associated with land transactions, including sales, liens, purchases and easements.
Both offices have additional duties as well, with the assessor responsible for producing an annual assessment roll as well as implementing all property tax laws and the recorder responsible for filing and maintaining birth, death and marriage documents as well as all official documents of the county.
The other half of the clerk-recorder position covers additional ground, with Oakley currently providing several direct public services, including issuing marriage licenses, filing fictitious business name statements, filing and qualifying notary public oaths and bonds, posting environmental documents, registering process servers, administering and filing oaths of office, filing grand jury reports and serving as commissioner of civil marriages.
Oakley is also the registrar of voters, responsible for registering voters, verifying petitions, filing campaign statements and conducting elections.
How well that particular job fits with a combined assessor-recorder model was open for question during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
“Elections always seems to be the anomaly,” Brazil said, adding that “there are a number of models (from) full consolidation to leaving elections in a place of its own.”
Supervisors urged Brazil to continue exploring what would best suit Yolo County, but all expressed support for some kind of consolidation.
“I think we should do this,” said Supervisor Matt Rexroad of Woodland.
“I’m glad we’re looking into it,” added Supervisor Don Saylor of Davis.
The move would mark the second major consolidation in Yolo County, with voters last November approving the elimination of the elected office of auditor-controller/treasurer-tax collector and moving those duties into a department overseen by an appointed finance director.
That consolidation will take place at the end of current Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector Howard Newens’ term in December 2014.
In other action on Tuesday, supervisors turned down a fee waiver requested by owners of a newly approved event center near Esparto.
Lynn and Larry Rolston were given the green light by supervisors in August to turn a portion of their land into an event center where weddings, fundraisers, corporate retreats and other large events will be held.
But that approval followed months of wrangling that began when the Yolo County Planning Commission originally approved the use permit in May. The Rolstons’ neighbors appealed the use permit to the supervisors, and county staff estimated the cost of defending the appeal, as well as preparing and modifying the use permit, at $20,000, which was billed to the Rolstons.
The Rolstons requested that some of those fees be waived, arguing that staff time spent on their case actually helped the county fine-tune policy for event centers in general, including as outlined in the proposed zoning code update.
“We didn’t think we should bear all (the cost) on our project when it benefits so many people who come after us,” Lynn Rolston told supervisors on Tuesday.
But while several supervisors expressed sympathy for the Rolstons’ plight, they also said they had no choice, that to approve a waiver would be considered a gift of public funds.
And staff said the issue was less about regulations for event centers and more about opposition to the Rolstons’ event center.
“It’s tough when an applicant has neighbors who will go to any length to slow down the process because that incurs staff time,” noted Eric Parfrey, principal planner with the Department of Planning and Public Works.
The request was unanimously denied.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy