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Editorial: Vote to merge county offices, save money

Chicago TIF revenue accounts for 38% of the total tax to be collected by the city. Cook County Building.
The Cook County Seal on the carpet at the entrance to the County Building. | Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times

Follow @csteditorialsIn August, we urged the Cook County Board to give voters a chance to merge the redundant recorder of deeds office into that of the county clerk.

Happily, the board voted to do so, and the question is on the Nov. 8 ballot. Now it’s your turn. We urge voters to seize this rare chance to make Cook County government more efficient by approving this consolidation.

It would be hard to find two offices more suited for a merger. Karen Yarbrough’s recorder of deeds office keeps track of land transactions and other documents and collects real estate transfer fees. David Orr’s office of county clerk keeps track of birth certificates and business names and other records, calculates tax rates and runs suburban elections. We don’t need two separately elected officials, along with separate support staffs, to do those jobs.


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The Civic Federation’s Laurence Msall estimates a merger could save a minimum of $800,000 a year. Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, who led the consolidation effort, thinks the savings could come to $1 million a year.

If approved, the merger will take place in 2020, so Yarbrough, who is running unopposed for re-election, will be able to finish out her new term.

Back in 1972, Cook County voters replaced the elected position of coroner with the appointed post of medical examiner. It’s worked fine. If anyone longs for the days when they could still vote for the person in charge of determining causes of deaths, they haven’t told us. And it’s not like the county is short of names on the ballot when election season rolls around. Cook County has 29 separately elected officials. Los Angeles County makes do with eight.

The news out of the County Building of late has frequently been about higher taxes. Raising the sales tax. Adding taxes on soft drinks. Slapping new taxes on ammunition and electronic cigarettes. Higher property tax assessments.

So let’s do ourselves a favor, for once, and save a few tax dollars. Vote to merge the offices of recorder of deeds and county clerk.

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