County clerk's fees set to rise statewide

Richard House, Chief Deputy of Daviess County Clerk's Office.

Filing fees in Kentucky's county clerk's offices are going up for the first time in more than 12 years.

The increases will begin on Jan. 1 and will rise substantially for all filing fees pertaining to the records responsibilities of the clerk's office. No changes will be made to automotive fees, said Daviess County Deputy Clerk Richard House.

“From a budget standpoint, most of our budget is spent on employees, not systems, but the number of people that we have running the place. Out of that, I would say that 70% is funded by the automobile department with 30% coming from the recording side. This increase will balance that out so we aren't dependent on one side. Daviess County still produces books. A lot of changes on our end will be putting records online. We are still looking at the best possible transition for that."

More than 60 filing fees will be increasing, with the most common being deeds, mortgages, marriage licenses, power of attorney and wills. Deeds will increase to $50 with an extra $3 built-in per page after five pages compared to its traditional fee of $17. Mortgages will be increasing from $17 to $80, marriage licenses from $35.50 to $50, power of attorney from $17 to $50, and wills from $8 to $47.

"There are a lot of things that are changing," House said. "The changes in fees were necessary, especially given that we will be adopting e-recording as well as e-notarizing practices. These services are expensive in terms of the actual service, software and equipment. None of these services are free, even for us. Prior to this raise, the department didn't pay for itself. Now it will be able to.

"One thing that is built in is a permanent records fee for $10 per document for the preservation of the document that will pay for the digital imaging. It does cost money to produce and record these documents. There is a lot to it. It has been offset so many times by automobile fees. We have six people that are dedicated to the recording side. That is the magic number for that service."

In 2019, members of the Kentucky Bankers Association, Bar Association and county clerks joined together to look at the future of the rates and the records process in the state, ultimately recommending the fee increases and the move into digitizing records. Their recommendations became the basis for Senate Bill 114, sponsored by Kentucky Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Louisville Democrat. The bill made its way through the 2019 legislative session and was formally signed by Gov. Matt Bevin on March 25.

The need for fee increases was based, in large part, off what surrounding states are charging for records filings, the fact that Kentucky has not seen an increase in filing fees since 2007, and to offset the costs associated with clerks' offices adopting digital filing practices. Through the changes, clerks statewide will lose out on some revenue, especially what they make from attorneys and mortgage companies making copies, but that should be recouped by the increase, House said.

"When you only make a few dollars per document and that money runs everything, it adds up fast," he said. "Right now it is 50 cents a page for copying here in Daviess County, but those fees will disappear when it goes online on Jan. 1. Our big part with that will be with lawyers and mortgage offices that pay. Now they will pay a subscription fee through our vendor to obtain documents. We still have to have people here to have those records online and make sure they are properly recorded and in order. We have it down to the most efficient number that we can. We are in the 21st century, so that is the nature of the beast in terms of customer service and operations."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com, @JMulliken3

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