Kent County Levy Court mulls hike in deed recording fees

DOVER — A decision to raise Kent County deed recording fees by $5 was tabled by a unanimous vote on Tuesday night at a public hearing. Commissioners decided that certain concerned parties — namely realtors and bar associations — had not been properly notified of the proposed change. The public hearing was advertised in Kent County Levy Court’s customary fashion, but commissioner Eric Buckson in particular thought a direct notification was warranted.

“We have a close relationship with those folks and I think it’s warranted that it’s communicated with them in advance when we’re trying to make a change like this,” he said.

Mr. Buckson noted that on the heels of the recent 1 percent increase in real estate transfer tax (RTT) signed off on by Gov. John Carney in early July to help close the state’s budget gap, any increases to costs in the real estate industry deserve added scrutiny. The recent increase in the RTT has been roundly condemned by real estate agents and associations. The president of the Delaware Association of Realtors called the move one that “harms real estate business and hurts Delaware’s economy.”

“The real estate community, which I assume plays a vital role in the deeds office, just took a big hit,” Mr. Buckson said. “With that added 1 percent, any more increases on their costs of doing business, no matter how big or small, will be seen as a challenge. We just need to think about that. Don’t just vote for it as if it’s no big deal.”

The proposal met with conditional approval at a Levy Court committee meeting in late June. Kent County Recorder of Deeds Betty Lou McKenna proposed the $5 per document hike in recording fees at that meeting.

“We got the idea from New Castle County who’s been doing it for several years and it’s working out well for them,” she said at the time. “The money would split, $2 would go to the recorder of deeds for upgrading technology and $3 into the fund for any other department that needs extra technology upgrades during the year.”

At the Tuesday night meeting, County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange clarified that the $3 not allocated to the recorder of deeds would go into the county’s general fund for general expenses.

Ms. McKenna claims the new fees are estimated to raise about $8,400 per year, which will help defray rising technology costs.

The county resolved to contact interested parties directly, re-advertise a public hearing for the proposal and come to a final decision at a later meeting.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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