Kent Levy Court approves two new recording fees

Editor’s note: Updated to correct estimated revenue for the deed recording fee increase.

DOVER — Kent County Levy Court commissioners approved a new $5 dollar deed recording fee and a new $20 marriage license recording fee on Tuesday.

Both proposals passed with 5-1 votes with 4th District Commissioner Eric Buckson voting “nay” on both and Commissioner Terry Pepper absent.

Neither proposal met public resistance at the hearing.

A decision on both fees, originally subject to hearing on June 20, had been held up with multiple delays and reschedules. On July 11, the decision on the deed recording fee was tabled because commissioners felt that stakeholders in the county may not have been properly notified, despite the county advertising the proposal in its customary fashion.

On Tuesday, this had been remedied to commissioners’ satisfaction. Recorder of Deeds Betty Lou McKenna said she had not heard any resistance to the proposal among the concerned parties she contacted directly.

Both fees appear to take a page from the other Delaware counties’ play books.

“We got the idea from New Castle County who’s had this deed recording fee for several years and it’s working out well for them,” said Ms. McKenna. “The money would be split, $2 of it would go to the recorder of deeds for upgrading technology and $3 would go into the general fund for any other department that needs extra technology upgrades during the year.”

Ms. McKenna said at a July meeting that the new fees are estimated to raise about $81,200 per year, which will help defray rising technology costs for the county.

A similar $20 recording fee for all licenses issued through the marriage bureau was already instituted in New Castle County in 2015 and Sussex County on July 1, said Clerk of the Peace Brenda Wootten. She said that New Castle County generated an extra $50,000 with their fee in 2016.

“The data input process is time consuming because we have to record marriage licenses accurately and submit them to the state for archiving,” said Ms. Wootten. “This fee will compensate the county a tremendous amount of money. For example, our statistics from last year show that we did 1,016 marriage licenses — which would have been $20,320 for the county. I feel that the fee is important, and long overdue”

Ms. Wootten also said the change would help bring Kent County’s fee structure in line with the state’s two other counties.

Commissioners voting in favor of the fee hikes did so because they saw no public resistance and acknowledged rising technology costs. However, Mr. Buckson dissented, saying that looking to the other counties for cues on service fees is a “non-starter.”

“One of the most important votes I make are on every new tax or fee that is asked for, and no matter how big or small they are, they are important,” he said. “I really don’t think we need to be looking to New Castle County for when we need to change our fees.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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