Butler County clerk to reopen new title office in northern part of county

Butler County Clerk of Courts Mary Swain intends to reopen a title office in the northern part of the county next year after COVID shuttered the Middletown location in 2020. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Butler County Clerk of Courts Mary Swain intends to reopen a title office in the northern part of the county next year after COVID shuttered the Middletown location in 2020. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Butler County Clerk of Courts Mary Swain may reopen a title office in the northern part of the county after COVID-19 shuttered the Middletown office last year.

Swain indicated in her 2022 tax budget submission to the county commissioners “there is now a strong demand” so she will be looking for a new location in the Middletown or Monroe area.

There are three other title locations in the county where vehicle registrations and passports can be obtained: in Fairfield, Hamilton and West Chester Twp. Last April, Swain told the Journal-News the Fairfield office was the only one operating, serving dealers only, because of the pandemic.

After the county commissioners ordered 7.4% budget cuts over two years during the height of the pandemic, and given the fact the Middletown lease was expiring, Swain decided to make the temporary closure permanent and said the situation would be reassessed as conditions changed.

She has included hiring two new title clerks in her 2022 tax budget for a total of $110,458 for wages and benefits. Chief Deputy Clerk Joe Statzer said they plan to transfer experienced people to manage the northern site, but they would need to hire one possibly two new people. It will likely cost about $40,000 to outfit a new office. Swain saved $130,000 or more last year by closing the Middletown office.

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The Fairfield and West Chester title offices generate about 9,000 titles per month compared to 3,455 that used to be issued in Middletown and 2,916 in Hamilton. Swain said reopening the office in the northern portion of the county is all about convenience for the residents there because the other locations are a hike.

The taxpayer-backed general fund would not support this endeavor, title revenues would. The tax budget is basically a rough draft of what various county officials intend to spend the next year, the final spending plan will be approved by the commissioners at the end of the year. Swain’s total budget for next year is penciled in at $6 million with $2 million coming from the general fund.

Swain routinely turns about $1 million in excess title fees back to the general fund, last year it was $1.5 million. Commissioner Cindy Carpenter, who is the former court clerk, said reopening the Middletown-area office is critical.

“Middletown is a key location because with our ability to turn around titles faster than the surrounding counties, that has actually been a profit center for the clerk of courts office,” Carpenter said. “It’s vital that the citizens of Middletown are able to get their cars registered and their plates and get back on the road as soon as possible.”

Despite people being locked down and off the streets for several months last year Statzer said the title fees continued to flow in and haven’t slowed since.

“We haven’t really slowed down at all,” Statzer said. “People are using (pandemic) stimulus, the fact they have more time, they got their taxes, we’re not dropping in titles.”

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