Office of Budget and Evaluation

County Clerk Recording Division

411 Elm Street, 3rd Floor, Dallas, Texas 75202
E-mail: budget@dallascounty.org • Fax (214) 653-6517


by: Geoffrey G. Leach

September 21, 1999

Introduction

The County Clerk has requested that he be allowed to reorganize the 32-person Recording Division of the County Clerk Department. This division is charged with responsibility for all document management within the County Clerk's Office, other than documents associated with court cases. These documents include real estate liens, deeds, and titles, marriage licenses, birth registration documents, and death records. These documents come to the County Clerk's Office both by mail and walk-up customers, are imaged by a vendor, and must be returned and/or filed for later retrieval.

The Division is currently organized into four separate sections. The County Clerk has proposed to reorganize this division into two sections in order to meet the following goals:

  • Combine similar functions under the same supervisor
  • Establish and clarify promotion paths
  • Redefine certain jobs to more accurately reflect the activities being performed.
  • Adjust staff assignments to address backlogs and processing bottlenecks.

Methodology

The Office of Budget and Evaluation has generally followed the approach to preparing an organizational evaluation as outlined in a companion briefing on today's agenda. In particular, the following steps were taken:

  • Review and understand the mission of the division
  • Interview division personnel and management to ascertain understanding of mission and adequacy of job descriptions
  • Review adequacy of performance measures and workload data for the division
  • Prepare workflow diagrams to highlight potential business process improvements
  • Prepare and discuss alternate organizational arrangement
  • Prepare a list of recommended and not recommended jobs to refer to Personnel for study and classification

Following these steps, a recommendation has been prepared for discussion with the County Clerk and the Court. A preliminary cost estimate is also provided in order to estimate the costs for this reorganization.

Current Organization and Process Mapping

Figure I illustrates the current organizational structure of the Recording Division:

The current organizational structure places one Division Manager over the 32-person Division, supplemented by four line supervisors each overseeing the operations of one individual section.

The Marriage License/Vital Statistics section of this division acts as a stand-alone function, and is not dependent on other areas for work to occur. The County Clerk has expressed a desire to have one supervisor responsible for the functions of the Real Property, Index/Deeds, and Mail and Control sections, due to the fact that all of these sections all associate with the real estate recording function of the County Clerk's Office.

The following paragraphs discuss each of the four current sections as they currently operate.

Marriage License/Vital Statistics

Description of Services - The ML/VS section is an independent operation within the Recording Division. Unlike other sections of the Division, the ML/VS section is not dependent on other areas for work to occur. Customers either bring in or mail requests for copies of marriage licenses, birth certificates, or death records. The clerical staff processes these requests and the copies are given to the requesting customer. Fees for this service are mandated by the State, and are divided between the County General Fund and the County Clerk's Records Management Fund. This section is also responsible for registering new birth and death records and transferring these records to the state for addition to the Vital Statistics database.

Performance Measures - Performance targets identified for this section indicate that the section will process approximately 23,000 requests for copies of birth certificates, 3,800 copies of death records, 7,900 copies of marriage licenses or applications, and will issue 10,500 new marriage licenses from the downtown location. Actual workloads do not appear to be on target with these projections, however workloads to indicate a slight increase over actual operations in FY98. Revenues for this section have already exceeded the FY99 target, and are projected to total $251,516. These performance measures are being reported in a timely manner, with the exception of the Annual Customer Satisfaction Survey which has yet to be implemented. (Also see Attachment A).

Observations of Current Operations - The ML/VS section of the Recording Division appears to be operating both efficiently and effectively. This section employs 2 clerks who act as roving clerks and are used throughout the division. These clerks perform tasks in other sections when there is a backlog that needs to be eliminated. Processes that take place in this section appear to be well devised and ensure proper completion of tasks within the section.

Real Property

Description of Services - The Recording (Real Property) section is charged with processing all real estate documents (titles, liens, and general affidavit information). These documents are received by the section through both mail and walk up customer service. Each real estate document goes through five stages before being transferred to the County's vendor who images and microfilms the information and returns the original document to the County.

The critical activities of this section involve accuracy and volume. An inaccurately indexed document creates a problem at a later time when customers are trying to obtain copies of real estate documents. Inability to keep up with volume causes backlogs which increase the amount of time customers and title companies must wait before receiving back the original document.

Process Mapping - The documents passing through the section are subject to the following steps:

  • Stage 1 - Clerks receive documents in mail, identify the type of document, calculate fees for the document, and ensure that the document meets statutory requirements for filing. Cashiers receive documents, assign instrument numbers for tracking purposes, and collect appropriate state mandated fees. Cashiers then deliver fees to the Special Assistant who <insert rest of sentence here>
  • Stage 2 - Clerk places all documents in numerical order and verifies that all instrument numbers are accounted for. The clerk then verifies original signatures, notary signatures, and smudges seals for imaging purposes. The clerk ensures that the property is in Dallas County and verifies that the time and date stamp information is on the original document.
  • Stage 3 - Each page of the document is given the business day's volume number and is assigned a page number by a Rapid Print electronic print machine.
  • Stage 4 - This stage acts as a second quality control stage. All previous information is verified a second time, and the clerk verifies that each page of the document has received the correct volume and page numbers. Once the document meets the requirements, the clerk stamps the document with the County Clerk's certificate on the last page of the document.
  • Stage 5 - This is the final quality control area before the document is delivered to the imaging vendor. The clerk accounts for all documents again and groups the documents in groups of one hundred for imaging.

Performance Measures - The goal of this section is to efficiently and accurately process documents. Performance measures currently in place primarily assess flow-through volume, rather than speed and accuracy. In particular, the section's workload is approximately 435,000 real estate documents in FY99, somewhat less than the projected 465,000. Revenue generated in FY99 is expected to exceed $3.26 Million. No measures of accuracy are currently being recorded. (Also see Attachment B)

Observations of Current Operations - This process has proven to be an effective way of preparing documents for imaging. Designating one cashier to do mail only may improve the efficiency of the section, although the need for this is not urgent. The Office of Budget and Evaluation questioned individuals in the Index/Deeds section (who would naturally "discover" inaccurately indexed documents) and found that the quality control steps instituted by the Real Property section make these errors very infrequent.

Mail And Control

Description of Services - The Control and Mail Section receives documents back from the imaging vendor and acts as the final quality control checkpoint before documents are returned to their original owner. This section reviews, processes, and mails original documents to their owners after the imaging process is complete. This section is also responsible for assisting customers with questions regarding the status of their documents. The majority of these questions come from phone inquiries. To assist a customer, a clerk must access a computer system to retrieve information about each document.

Performance Measures - Good performance in this section requires a) well trained, helpful staff, b) speed in processing, and c) accuracy. To date, no performance measures have been prepared for this section. In order to more fully manage and understand the operations of this section, performance measures should be identified immediately. Some examples of performance measures for this process include:

  • Number of documents returned to customers
  • Number of documents returned to title companies.
  • Annual cost for return of documents
  • Percent of documents not returnable (i.e. No return address)
  • Percent of documents with return envelope already included
  • Average number of days between receipt from imaging company to actual release of document
  • Customer sampling for satisfaction of service.

These examples can easily be implemented and will give the management team a better understanding of the problems that face the Mail and Control section.

Observations of Current Operations - A backlog has been observed in this section, preventing timely mail-out of documents. In order to try to lessen this backlog, the section has employed part-time workers to work in this section, often transferring money to this line item from other divisions in the department. The section has also used Community Service workers to help lessen the backlog, however these workers are often not able to adequately perform the functions necessary for the job.

This section does not appear to be adequately staffed to meet current workload demands.

Index/Deeds

The Index/Deeds section is responsible for assisting customers with researching and obtaining copies of real estate documents from a computer system operated by the document imaging company. These documents are available on the computer system the same day that they are returned to the Mail and Control section. Requests for searches come via mail and through customer walk-ups. Most requests for this information come from Title companies who send representatives to the Records Building to obtain this information. This section provides copies of these documents for a fee approved by the State which is then deposited into the General Fund. This section is also responsible for assisting customers with assumed name searches.

Performance Measures - This section is on course to complete 65,264 requests in FY99, slightly above the target of 61,322. Documents included in this section are real estate documents as well as assumed name searches and other miscellaneous copies. Revenues for this section (less salaries) are expected to be $389,140. This is an 11% increase over FY98. Performance measures for this section have been identified, however the Office of Budget and Evaluation believes that these measures would be more effective if they were more specific. The measure could indicate the number of mail requests, number of walk-up requests, and the average time it takes to process each request. The current performance measures also indicate a problem with calls being abandoned. The filling of the Clerk I position in this section should help to remedy this situation, and calls should be answered in a timely manner. (Also see Attachment C).

Observation of Current Operations - The Index/Deeds section relies on customer requests and completes these requests in a timely and efficient manner. Currently the satisfaction of the customers is not being systematically sampled or evaluated.

Reorganization

The current organizational structure divides the division into four sections, which creates a lack of cohesiveness within the division. Employees do not see themselves as part of a whole division, but rather as parts of a section. This lack of team environment often causes problems for customers trying to obtain answers to questions. Currently, when a clerk does not work in the area being questioned, the clerk simply points the customer in another direction and has no further contact with that customer. This situation is a potential area for improvement, which will be addressed through the proposed reorganization.

To address this problem, the County Clerk's initial request created an Assistant Manager position who would share certain duties currently being the responsibility of the Division Manager. These duties included compilation of the weekly liquor docket, quarterly performance measures, and filing of personal financial statements for elected officials.

In addition, the County Clerk sought to combine the Real Property, Index/Deeds, and Mail and Control functions under one supervisor. This organization would have resulted in only two section supervisors reporting to two managerial levels.

The Office of Budget and Evaluation agrees with the concept of combining the sections, but suggests that the newly-created section head over Real Property, Index/Deeds, and Mail and Control be designated the Assistant Manager. This position can assume the work overload on the Division Manager and serve as supervisor of the newly-combined sections. In addition, the Office of Budget and Evaluation recommends transferring the UCC Clerk and one of the roving clerks from the Marriage License/Vital Statistics section to the Real Property and Index/Mail sections, respectively, to address backlogs in these areas.

In summary, the following changes are suggested:

  • An Assistant Division Manager position has been added to oversee all real estate functions of the division. This position will also assume certain duties currently performed by the Recording Division Manager.
  • The Mail and Control function has been merged with the Index/Deeds section, thus eliminating one supervisor position.
  • The UCC Clerk has been transferred from the ML/VS section to the Real Property section and cashiering duties have been added to the position.
  • One Clerical Assistant position has been transferred from the ML/VS section to the Index/Mail section. This position previously acted as a roving clerk.

Figure II displays the recommended organizational structure, with potential grades shown only for reference. The results of further study by the Personnel Department will identify actual grades for the positions.

Position Analysis Requested - Recommended

The County Clerk has requested that several positions be reevaluated by the Personnel Department. The Office of Budget and Evaluation recommends that the following positions be reevaluated:

Recording Division Manager - This position was last evaluated in 1985, and since that time, many new tasks have been added to the position. The current job description does not include these tasks, and therefore needs to be revised. Some of these tasks are the weekly liquor docket (formerly the responsibility of the County Judge's Office), quarterly performance measures (as prescribed by the Office of Budget and Evaluation), and filing of personal financial statements for elected officials (formerly the task of the County Auditor's Office). Other tasks that have been assigned to the Recording Division Manager can be found in Attachment A to this document.

Assistant Division Manager - This is a new position that is being created to assist the Division Manager with supervision of the Division. The Assistant Manager will be in charge of overseeing the functions of all real property functions of the Division, as well as accepting some of the responsibilities of the Recording Division Manager. This position will also be responsible for the oversight of all functions associated with the Real Property, Index/Deeds, and Mail and Control sections of the division. The new position will have direct supervision of 20 positions. This position will also create a promotional path for employees wishing to grow within the organization.

UCC Clerk/Cashier - This position needs to be reevaluated due to the addition of cashiering duties to the job description. This position will also assist in preparing deposits for the County Auditor when the County Clerk Special Assistant is unavailable.

Clerical Assistant II - The Clerical Assistant positions in the ML/VS, Index/Deeds, and Mail and Control sections need to be reevaluated due to the necessity of the position to include large amounts of computer use. A typing requirement will also be added to this position to ensure that work is being completed in an efficient manner.

Clerk IV And Clerk III - These positions are currently graded at a level below that of other positions with the same title and duties.

Technology

This study evaluated all four sections (ML/VS, Index/Deeds, Mail and Control, and Real Property) of the Recording Division and determined that the posting of frequently asked questions on the County web site would reduce the number of calls to the division.

Other Findings

  • Careful analysis of the division indicates that there is a high rate of turnover among the Clerical Assistant positions. The high volume of work and low pay of the positions is the most likely cause of this turnover. Many of the employees in the division indicated dissatisfaction with their current level of pay; however the majority of the negative responses came from the lowest pay levels.
  • The Office of Budget and Evaluation interviewed several walk-in customers and determined that customer satisfaction with the services of the department is high. Customers indicated that the services they received were satisfactory and that the quality of the assistance they received was very good. The most common complaint of the customers was the amount of wait time, however many customers indicated that this wait time had decreased significantly since prior visits.
  • A mainframe computer failure could cause a dramatic decrease in efficiency of the department and a halt to some of the processes involved in the Real Property section. Maintaining computer equipment and upgrading when necessary seems to be the most effective way of combating this problem.
  • Employees have been cross-trained to complete tasks not prescribed by their job descriptions. This training is essential in the absence or removal of employees in many positions.
  • Performance goals should be established division-wide. Employees in lower-level positions were unable to identify any goals that had been set by management.
  • A complete customer satisfaction survey should be implemented to gather more information about customer wait times, document turnaround times, etc.
  • The physical appearance of the Recording Division is confusing to many customers. Customers wait in lines only to find out that they have been in the wrong line. This problem can be resolved with the addition of more adequate signage to inform customers of the services being offered at each counter location.

Financial Impact

Table I summarizes the potential cost impact of the reorganization using Step 2 pay rates for each of the positions at the grades suggested by the County Clerk.. The actual cost of the reorganization will be less than the amount shown if the actual grading is lower than the suggested grades.

Table I

Recommended Salary Comparison

Grade Current Number
of Positions
Proposed Number
of Positions
Current
Step 2
Proposed
Step 2
Difference
4 16 5 $277,440 $ 86,700 $ (190,740)
5 7 17 $130,956 $318,036 $ 187,080
6 2 0 $ 40,344 $ - $ (40,344)
7 1 4 $ 21,780 $ 87,120 $ 65,340
8 1 1 $ 23,508 $ 23,508 $ -
9 2 2 $ 50,736 $ 50,736 $ -
A 2 0 $ 53,808 $ - $ (53,808)
B 0 1 $ - $ 28,536 $ 28,536
C 0 1 $ - $ 29,880 $ 29,880
F 1 0 $ 34,992 $ - $ (34,992)
H 0 1 $ - $ 40,668 $ 40,668
TOTAL 32 32 $633,564 $665,184 $ 31,620

As shown, the projected financial impact of this reorganization could be as much as $31,620.

Recommendation

The Office of Budget and Evaluation recommends that the proposed organizational structure be adopted and the following positions be referred to the Personnel Department for appropriate grading:

  • Recording Division Manager
  • Assistant Division Manager
  • UCC Clerk/Cashier
  • Clerical Assistant II
  • Clerk III
  • Clerk IV

The Office of Budget and Evaluation also recommends that the County Clerk's Office work with the Budget Office to devise a customer satisfaction survey to further determine the need for improvements within the division. The County Clerk should also reevaluate the current performance measures and develop measures to assist the management of the division. In accordance with the revised performance measures, the County Clerk should devise goals and performance targets division-wide to ensure that all employees are working towards the same goals.

In accordance with the findings of this analysis, the Office of Budget and Evaluation recommends further cross-training of employees to ensure that all functions of the division operate efficiently at all times. Each employee should receive four hours of training in each section in order to obtain a basic knowledge of the processes of the entire division. Performance measures should be implemented to track the progress of this cross-training (i.e. Number of employees receiving at least four hours of training in a section other than the one the employee is currently assigned to).

Interview List

  • Anthony Oliver - Clerk IV
  • Clifton Kyles - Lead Cashier
  • Donna Sherbet - Recording Division Manager
  • E.J. Jackson - Mail and Control Supervisor
  • Herman Lacy - Index/Deeds Supervisor
  • Jill Turik - Cashier
  • Lynn Goodson - Clerical Assistant
  • Regina Black - Clerk I
  • Toni Hernandez - Clerical Assistant
  • Vickey Johnson - Cashier
  • Warren Hayes - Clerical Assistant
  • Yolanda Craig - Recording and Codes Supervision
  • Sam Samford - Chief Deputy
  • Pauline Fajaro - ML/VS Supervisor
  • Earl Bullock - County Clerk