The Barry County Board of Commissioners is trying to get information to clarify a policy change by the Register of Deeds that drew complaints from township officials and assessors. Register Barbara Hurless sent a notice to township and equalization assessors that as of Sept. 22, they would no longer be allowed to access the Tyler Technology data base, view and print documents for free.
Supervisors and assessors in several townships have complained that the restriction impedes their ability to get their work done.
Hurless has said it would be possible for a person to get the information and sell it to someone else or build their own data base for their own reasons, as had happened in other Michigan counties. If someone sells the information, “that’s taking a bite out of our revenues.”
When a Register of Deeds records a transfer of ownership of property, they must notify the local tax collection units where the property is located of the transfer within 30 days. That includes nine county assessors for the townships and also the equalization department.
After an opinion by Attorney Bonnie Toskey from Cohl, Stoker, Toskey and McGlinchey, P.C. that it is proper according to state law, Hurless said she will e-mail assessors a copy of every transaction they need every thirty days.
Administrator Michael Brown said he has talked to Toskey, but so far, he has not received much on the reasoning for the change or what the commissioners can or can’t do.
He said Hurless is dedicated to protecting the integrity of the track index and the fees and also make sure the assessors and equalization department have the information needed to do the job, but it is a state-wide issue with some private companies creating a private track index.
Hurless is willing to work with the assessors, “to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs,” Brown said. She plans to visit each township, “reach out to them” to help them get what they need.
Hurless was invited to the Tuesday meeting; she had a prior commitment in court and couldn’t attend. //
While commissioners agreed Hurless should protect the data base and money from fees that come to the county, the policy change “came out of nowhere,” without communication or advance notice to officials or assessors on the change she was making.
Commissioner Jim Dull suggested withholding funds from the register’s office to repay township assessor’s costs, but Brown said the money goes to the county and he is not aware of any provision that would allow refunding.
Commissioner Jon Smelker said security is up to the Register of Deeds, “but charging townships for information they need is unnecessary.”
Hurless will collaborate with the officials, Commissioner Craig Stolsonburg said. “There are many questions to be answered; Barb will contact all the township supervisors and assessors.”