As Land System Becomes Mandatory, County Realizes $700K Savings Each Year
Jan. 05, 2010
“Doing more with less is no longer an option,” began Westchester County Clerk Tim Idoni. “It is a mandate for each of us in public service. Increasing the productivity of our staff is the key to reducing the cost of government.”
The Office of the Westchester County Clerk has rolled out a number of technology projects over the last four years which have saved tax dollars, increased intergovernmental efficiencies and moved the clerk’s office firmly into the 21st century. But the newly minted Property Records Electronic Portal (PREP) surpasses all of them. By changing the way documents are submitted to the Land Records Division of the Office of the Westchester County Clerk, the office will save hundreds of hours of staff time each month and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
PREP moves work previously performed by the county clerk’s staff out to those that submit documents to the office - the land records industry. A web-based application, PREP, facilitates the creation of certain tax forms and cover pages for land documents, such as deeds and mortgages, which are submitted to the office for recording. The system is designed to reduce submission errors and prevent rejections, thus saving both the county and the real estate industry time and money. Further, reduced rejections will translate into faster recording times which protect the interests of the parties to land records. “By simply transferring the creation of cover pages from the government to the private sector, while providing the tools to make it easier to perform, Westchester taxpayers are the ultimate winners,” Idoni said.
The launch of the PREP System on the first day of his second term marks the culmination of a process which began four years ago when Idoni entered office and found that tens of thousands of land documents had been sitting in boxes for months. He began by auditing every position in the department and then assessing each employee to be sure they were properly assigned. By reorganizing the staff and working with the title industry, he was able to eliminate the backlog. Idoni then set out to develop what is now known as PREP, but he was not able to obtain funding until 2008. With funding in place, Idoni and his staff went to work implementing the new system with the county’s Office of Information Technology.
Idoni believes the PREP System is so good as a result of the help received from not only his own and county staff, but in large part through partnerships with the New York State Land Title Association, the local bar associations, the Westchester County Assessors Association, and the Office of the New York City Register, which implemented a similar system in 2004. Westchester is the only county outside of New York City to develop a web-based system. “We put a particular emphasis on making the system easy, which the industry has embraced,” shared Idoni. “We have understood from the beginning that providing training and customer service is essential and I am proud to say in preparing to launch the PREP System, we have already provided in-person training to hundreds of users through both on-site training sessions and offsite Continuing Legal Education courses.”
With the knowledge that the PREP System would launch in 2010, Idoni was able to eliminate ten positions from his operating budget over the last two years. The eliminated positions ranged from Chief Deputy County Clerk (whose responsibilities in running the Land Records Division, Idoni has assumed) to Senior Messenger and will result in a savings of salaries and benefits in excess of $700,000.
Idoni’s next mission is to bring the entire state into the 21st century through legislation allowing for the eRecoding of land records. Currently New York is the only state in the nation that does not allow for some form of eRecording. The legislation supported by the eRecording Committee of the New York State Association of County Clerks, which Idoni co-chairs, would allow land records such as deeds and mortgages to be scanned and transmitted electronically to the clerk’s office. The proposed process saves time, postage costs, and manpower for both the public and private sectors. Idoni looks forward to lobbying the State Legislature to allow for this common sense, big money saving initiative in the coming year.
For more information or to use the PREP System, visit https://prep.westchesterclerk.com/ or call the PREP Help Line at (914)995-3111.