Monday, May 14, 2012

Registry of Deeds Technology Fund

Back in 2003, the state legislature created a Technology Fund to be used by the state's registries of deeds to fund new technological initiatives.  The Fund is financed through a $5 surcharge on documents recorded at each registry.  Today most of the state's registers of deeds met at the Secretary of State's office to discuss how the money is being used at the registries.

The biggest single expenditure - about one-third of the total - pays for the hardware and software of the MassLandRecords website and for the computer and communications infrastructure that connects each registry to the internet and to each other.  These costs clearly benefit each office although they would be deemed "indirect costs" since they are not directly controlled by the individual registry.

As for direct expenditures by individual registries of deeds, the most common use was for back scanning of documents and indexes.  Many offices have opted to scan their paper-based index books and to put them on MassLandRecords in an electronic book format rather than in a searchable database.  (This is the approach that we've taken at Middlesex North).  Simultaneously, the registries are also working on adding older indexes to the searchable database as well.

Electronic recording was another common expenditure.  The Worcester Registry finally has the "state portal" operational for electronic recording.  Rather than use intermediary companies such as Simplifile and ERX to provide electronic recording services between customers and registries, the "state portal" allows customers to file directly with the registry.  Now that this system is functional in Worcester, the Suffolk Registry of Deeds should be the next to try it.  Other registries that have implemented (either recently or as in the case of Lowell, quite a few years ago) electronic recording using the third party system include Fall River, Middlesex South, Taunton, Fitchburg, Norfolk, Plymouth, Springfield and Lowell.

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