Strong Housing Market Fuels Upswing in Union County Clerk Revenues – and More Help for the Homeless

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi is seeing a record increase in property transactions and revenues this year, reflecting continued improvement in the economy. Thanks to a change in state law several years ago, the increased revenue will also result in more funding for homeless services in Union County. Credits: Jim Lowney/County of Union.

UNION COUNTY, NJ - Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi is seeing a record increase in property transactions and revenues this year, reflecting continued improvement in the Union County economy and the housing market. The County Clerk’s Office is one of a handful of county offices that generates significant revenue, and the County portion of the revenues generated is dedicated to offset the county tax rate. Additionally, thanks to a change in state law several years ago, the increased revenue will also result in more funding for homeless services in Union County.

“The financial crisis of 2008 decimated the housing market, with a consequent drop in our revenues from transaction fees. Now that the crisis is behind us, the activity in our Recording Division reflects a much brighter outlook for the Union County,” said Rajoppi.

County Clerk and Recorder offices in all 21 New Jersey counties are mandated to record property transactions, and to collect fees for each transaction. A 2009 state law permits a surcharge of $3.00 per transaction to be set aside in a Homeless Trust Fund for each county.

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“While we are still not back to our pre-crash levels, this year marks a significant turning point based on a comparison of the first five months of activity,” said Rajoppi.

Rajoppi’s Recording Division collected revenues of more than $15.4 million from January through May 2008, the year of the stock market crash. Collections for that five-month period sank to a low of $7.5 million in 2009 and never recovered to their previous high.

From January through May 2015, the Recording Division collected $13.2 million, beating the next-highest mark of $11.3 million in 2012, and far surpassing the 2014 total of $8.4 million.

The Business Division, which primarily handles passport and notary transactions, also reflects an improved economy. Its 2015 January – May revenues totaled $270,606. That already beats the Division’s 2008 high of $263,616 for the same period, as well as its next-highest mark of $226,236 in 2014.

“While a strong housing market is great news for property owners, many Union County households continue to struggle, including seniors and families with small children,” said Rajoppi. “My office worked with the Freeholder Board to ensure that Union County could participate in the Homeless Trust Fund program, and the result is that we have additional funding to help those in need.”

Rajoppi’s office began collecting Trust Fund surcharges in May 2010. As of May 2015, over $730,000 has been collected.

“As one of the very few county-based agencies which generate significant revenues, the Clerk’s office is in a unique position to assist with critical public service programs. When state law enabled the creation of the Homeless Trust Fund, we could not pass up this opportunity to help those in need,” said Rajoppi.

Programs approved for funding through the Trust Fund include rental vouchers designed to help at-risk families weather a temporary financial crisis without losing their homes. Funding also goes to support services to prevent homelessness, and to help homeless families obtain a home.

“While the total amount collected is relatively modest, the Trust Fund goes a long way toward ensuring that every child in Union County has the chance to grow up in a safe, healthy environment,” said Rajoppi. “I’m very proud that my office can play a role in that endeavor.”

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