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Fees for county records could increase

Fees for county records could increase

by
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 15, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
Author Image
March 15, 2010

The price of getting land titles and other records kept by county clerks and recorders in Idaho could increase, but would still be among the lowest in the nation. The Senate State Affairs Committee approved a proposal to raise the price of the first page of a document from $3 to $10, and set the price of electronic records at 10 cents a page. Fees haven‘t been raised since 1987, and several clerks told lawmakers the hike would allow clerks' offices to modernize, and reduce the burden on taxpayers.

Sen. Lee Heinrich, R-Cascade, is backing the measure. He said he called for some fee increases when he was the Valley County clerk. “This is kind of déjà vu,” he said. The proposed increases, which would apply to deeds, mortgages, and other documents, are the result of collaboration among clerks, realtors, and land title companies, three parties that often deal with copying documents. People could still view the documents at county offices for free, but would need to pay to take copies home with them. The current charge for every page is $3, and electronic copies range from 1 cent to $1 among counties.

Payette County Clerk Betty Dressen said the higher fees should benefit most Idahoans. “Your regular taxpayer is having to supplement these recordings,” she said. “We’re just talking about a fee increase. It’s not a tax. It’s just for those that are using it to pay for it.” She said counties have had to pay for new technologies, including computers, scanners, and document readers, that the current fee structure isn’t covering. “It’s really important on the financial side, that we get equipment to take care of what needs to be done.”

Some counties are using thousands of dollars to pay for recorder services, according to Seth Grigg, a policy analyst with the Idaho Association of Counties. “It impacts more greatly the smaller counties,” he said. Grigg said that Idaho currently has the lowest fees for these documents in the nation, and that the $7 first page fee increase would keep it under the national average. “Idaho is still going to be at the very bottom, compared nationally.” Grigg said states charge an average of $20 for the first page of a document.

Minidoka County Clerk Duane Smith said most counties have not transferred all of their records from microfilm to electronic documents. “It is an expensive step, and one we can’t afford under the present fee structure,” he said.

Some county documents are nearly illegible, according to Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, who has gotten some documents as part of his work as an attorney. “It is a very daunting problem that’s out there,” Davis said.

The legislation now faces a full Senate vote. The text of the legislation is available here.

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