Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

October 17, 2008

Budget Cuts

by @ 2:48 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

When it recently became clear that the world had spiraled into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, you had to know that all of this fiscal turmoil would have a devastating effect on the state budget (which funds this office). While the specific consequences are far from clear, it is apparent that substantial cuts will be made. In preparing for these cuts, I dug out my notes from November 2001 and the state’s last budget crisis. How we responded at that time might assist us in formulating our response this time.

Several major operational changes were instituted in response to the November 2001 budget cuts:

    Record Books: We continued to make books but only for as long as our supply of paper, toner and plastic book covers continued. Surprisingly, the original plan was only to defer production of books until the start of the next fiscal year and the resumption of ordinary funding. Before that occurred, however, we concluded electronic images were the way to go and we never made another record book.

    Return Postage: This is when we stopped using our labels, envelopes and postage to mail original documents back to customers. Instead, we gave customers three options: you could have a “pick-up” box at the registry from which to retrieve your documents; you could give us a self-addressed stamped envelope; or you could abandon your document to eventual destruction. This system worked well until August of 2007 when we converted to a full scan-and-return method of operating.

    Marginal References: We immediately ceased making marginal references in record books, reasoning that the computerized version would be sufficient. It was.

    Curtailment of Fax Service: Back in 2001, many of our customers routinely faxed copies of documents to their clients. While we charged a fee for that service, that (and all other fees we collect) went directly to the state’s general fund and did not come to us. The more long distance phone calls were made for faxes, the higher our phone bill. With no additional money to pay for the increased bill, we eliminated the service. At the time, we knew that all of our document images would soon be freely available on the internet, something that would serve as a reasonable replacement for the fax service.

Back in 2001, these changes allowed us to absorb more than $80,000 in budget cuts. With these already gone, I’m not sure that comparable opportunities to cut still exist. But, we are looking.

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