By CARL SMITH
County land deeds will soon be available for public review on the Oktibbeha County chancery clerk’s website as the county works to modernize its Internet presence.
Chancery Clerk Monica Banks said 11 years of records should be available at http://www.oktibbehachanceryclerk.com  by the end of the month. An access fee will be levied for the records, she said, but the exact amount is yet to be determined. A portion of the fee will go to the site’s host.
Banks said the online document charge is needed to supplement her office’s income. The chancery clerk’s office, she said, operates primarily from legal filing fees since the county only funds general office supplies.
“Because the (in-house) copy fee was established as one of the mechanisms to fund the office, it will continue (online) to serve as a funding mechanism,” she said.
The current in-house service fees, including the copy fee, are used to pay her salary and six other office employees. Copy fees themselves, Banks said, only make up a small portion of income.
“This office is totally responsible for salaries and matching benefits. The one thing the county does offer for our employees is health insurance. I’m also responsible for the matching retirement,” she said. “Dime for dime, this office has to hold its own. My policy is I pay my employees first. If we make enough, I get my full pay; if we don’t, my employees get paid first.”
Since assuming office in 1996, Banks said she has miss receiving her capped pay only a few times.
“Our best months are December and January because the new taxes come out. Also, the tax sale occurs every August. Between the months of June, July and August, people are coming up to the date that they could lose their property if the taxes are three years delinquent, so there’s always a run,” Banks said. “It’s been very tough with the economy the way it is. Our money is made from deeds and deeds of trust. If property isn’t moving, then the mechanisms aren’t either. Some months fluctuate (in regard to income), so I can get what I’m paid and owed. It’s a combination of the 12 months that allows us to continue.”
Once Banks’ office is able to index older records, the website will host full details on land deeds for the past 30 years. In addition to the information, the public will have access to the minutes from county board of supervisors meetings and possibly agendas.
Discussion about the future online document fee was held during Monday’s supervisors’ meeting after citizen inquiry.
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said he understands the clerk’s need for revenue sources, but believes public documents such as land deeds should be available for free viewing by county citizens.
“I respect what Mrs. Banks says about her office. That’s her office, she’s the chancery clerk and I stand by her, but I’d love to sit down with her and talk about the (fee) process. It’s hard for me to understand why the public has to pay for access,” he said Thursday. “In my opinion, (access to the records) should be free not withstanding (on-site printing costs). I campaigned on transparency.”
The move to online documents by the chancery clerk’s office comes as Mississippi State University’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (nSPARC) is developing a comprehensive Web portal for county government. Troy DeRego, nSPARC user experience designer, said the site should launch sometime this summer.