The Electronic Services System (ESS) Coordinating Committee, the body overseeing the operations of the Iowa Land Records system, approved the 2020 annual budget at their quarterly meeting on November 7, 2019. The annual budget projects total revenue to be $1,589,447.00, and total expenditures of $1,567,162.00. Net income for 2020 is projected to be $22,285.00.

Operating revenue is provided through four primary sources: e-recording service fees, the $1 per document recording fee managed through the local government electronic transaction fund in the Office of the State Treasurer (see Iowa Code Section 331.604(3)), convenience fees charged through the ESS point-of-sale payment system, and payments made by individual counties for the maintenance services provided by local land records management system vendors.

Budgeted expenses are for costs associated with internal technical development services (software developers), local vendor maintenance services, administrative services, payment services, marketing services, external development services (such as PII redaction services), customer support services, software licensing and equipment support services, office operations, and education & outreach (trade shows, seminars and other activities to market the Iowa Land Records E-Submission services). See the budget summary accompanying this article.

ESS is the 28E organization established in 2005 to manage the Iowa Land Records system, web site and related services. ESS financial operations are audited annually, and the audit reports are filed with the Office of the State Auditor. In October of 2019, ESS and Iowa Land Records staff and accountants provided senior staff with the Treasurer of State and Auditor of State, in separate meetings, with a full briefing on ESS and Iowa Land Records financial systems, governance and operating practices. “These meetings were conducted, because ESS leadership believes it is important to operate in an open and transparent way,” observed Phil Dunshee, the Iowa Land Records Project Manager. “ESS is an unusual 28E intergovernmental organization, and its operation requires technical integration and communication with many systems.” This includes 99 county land records systems, redaction services, commercial electronic recording companies, and other state agencies such as the Iowa Department of Revenue – which electronically files tax liens and releases through the Iowa Land Records E-Submission service.

For the first time in 2020, ESS will operate with a consolidated budget. In prior years, because of the various funding sources, there were separate budgets associated with each of the two primary sources of income. 

In addition to providing for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the Iowa Land Records system, the 2020 budget and reserve funds will be focused on the development of a new web interface for electronic document submission, acquisition of replacement equipment for data storage for more than 20 million recorded documents, and the implementation of a new content management system. In the future the ESS budget and operations will continue to grow as electronic filing and customer support needs increase. Additional software developers will also be needed to work on improvements to other parts of the system including the online land records search engine, and integration with other land records data. 

In 2020, ESS and Iowa Land Records is projected to process $18,000,000.00 in county base recording fees and $3,000,000.00 in point of sale transactions on behalf of Iowa’s 99 counties. Payments are received from customers and deposited into a central treasury management account, and the funds are then distributed to the appropriate counties. All of these transactions are reconciled by both the county and by ESS and Iowa Land Records. ESS payment systems will electronically process more than 250,000 electronic recording transactions, and more than 58,000 point-of-sale transactions in calendar year 2019. 

See budgets and other financial documents on the Accountability in Reporting page.