November 22, 2011
Idoni Uses Technology to Reduce Personnel and Office Spending
WHITE PLAINS, NY: In 2006, County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni walked into an office that was months behind in its work and spending too much on personnel to accomplish it. One hundred and ten (110) full time staff members were working hard, but the office had a reputation for long delays and incomplete work. Fast forward five years … real property records are introduced into the system in less than a half day. Legal documents are being filed electronically. Spending has been reduced by sixteen percent (16%) over that time period, staffing is down twenty-eight percent (28%) and the 2012 Operating Budget calls for seventy-eight and a half (78.5) staff members.
The Westchester County Clerk’s Office, long considered the epitome of bureaucracy and political patronage, has become a model for the State of New York in terms of governmental efficiency and professional management. “We took a very simple approach to a complex problem,” Idoni began. “We saw the fiscal crisis coming, instituted programs that shifted work responsibilities through privatization, and started chipping away at the personnel costs without any layoffs.”
In 2009, the Clerk’s Office created the Property Records Electronic Portal (PREP), which automated data processing and the handling of payments for deeds and mortgages and as a result reduced the need for ten (10) positions in the budget. This contributed to a savings of over $ 850,000 a year. The department’s overtime and hourly costs have been reduced by ninety percent (90%) over the past five years. Idoni indicated the key to his plans was to not only reduce costs but actually improve services to the taxpayers of Westchester. “We set out to be a leader in our industry both in service capability and cost containment. I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far and there is more to come.”
In 2011, in partnership with the State Office of Court Administration and Administrative Judge Alan Scheinkman, the Clerk’s Office instituted the second mandatory electronic filing (e-filing) program in New York State, which now has over fifty percent (50%) of all legal cases commenced electronically. In January 2012, the electronic commencement of tax certiorari and foreclosure actions is expected to become mandatory, expanding the mandatory program to cover seventy percent (70%) of all legal actions commenced in the County Clerk’s Office. The county set records this year for the number of tax certiorari and small claims assessment reviews filed, making it all the more imperative to move these programs forward. The program projects to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in scanning, postage, storage, and processing costs.
In fall 2012, the electronic recording of land documents is scheduled to commence. Idoni led the charge in Albany to amend state law to allow for electronic documents to be recorded in county clerks’ offices throughout the state. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law in September. These e-initiatives save money in scanning, indexing, supplies, mail costs, storage, handling of payments and overall office efficiency. Eventually, personnel costs will drop, again. Idoni said in summary, “When I came into office we were handling over four million pieces of paper a year. That is three and a half million too many.”