Civic Agenda: Auditor's office streamlines services to save time, money


This has been a year of streamlining and cost savings at the Whatcom County Auditor's Office. Across all divisions of the office, recording, licensing and elections, we have been looking at our processes for improvements that will result in either making changes that would result in saving time or money.

Examples of that include introduction this past May of electronic recording of documents, utilized primarily by the title companies and national document submitters, that allow documents to be submitted digitally. This results in getting documents recorded faster thus cutting down the number of days after a closing that documents are on file. It also results in time savings for our staff in recording and returning a document in mere minutes. Last month, 25 percent of our land documents were recorded by this method. This will be a great help as the total recordings are up as our local economy begins to turn around. We have also introduced online marriage applications where individuals can begin the process at home by starting the paperwork online and then coming in to the office to finalize the license and pay the fee. It is a lot less time for the individual to be in our office and a lot less time for our staff as well.

Licensing continues to serve as an agent for the state Department of Licensing. So the state sponsors any new offerings. Two things that they have expanded upon is the availability of "quick titles" -- when you need to obtain title documents for your vehicle in a shorter period of time than usual. There is an additional $50 fee for this service but if you need your title sooner than four weeks you can obtain it that day instead. One thing that boat owners should be aware of - the state no longer mails you notification it is time to renew your license. Since all boats must renew by June 30, it is up to you to get your new boaters' tab. They are willing to email you a reminder if you will provide Department of Licensing with your email address. You can also obtain a State Parks "Discover Pass" when you renew your license tabs.

Some election changes that you will be seeing in the near future include a change in envelope style, doing away with the complicated folding envelope with a return to a regular flap. This change results in a substantial cost savings in the price of envelopes and it will greatly reduce processing time once the ballot reaches our office. It does involve the signature of the voter being on the outside of the envelope; however, that is the way our absentee ballots of the past were and for anyone not wanting to send their envelope through the mail, there are ballot drop boxes placed throughout the county and in Bellingham for ballot returns beginning 20 days before election day. We have also reviewed the amount of time it takes to process the ballot once it reaches our office. We have worked to streamline the steps of processing, thus reducing processing time and saving dollars paid out for additional staff.

We are looking at ways to make improved voter education available through informational videos to be released soon on our website. We have also established a site on Facebook ( for information concerning our office for those who like that means of communication. We have also applied for a grant, looking to improve methods for overseas/military voters to return their ballots that will ensure they arrive here on time in order to be counted.

We have asked all of our staff to look at their daily tasks to see increased opportunities that would make their work easier and more efficient. And, as always, they strive to provide exceptional customer service. I often hear from people what a positive experience they had in our office. We are proud to be able to offer this level of service.

I am proud to serve as your county auditor and remain as committed as ever to providing a nonpartisan auditor's office in the truest sense of the word where transparency, fiscal responsibility and responsiveness to citizens are held in the highest regard.


Debbie Adelstein is the elected Whatcom County Auditor. For more information, go online to This is one of a series of monthly Civic Agenda reports The Bellingham Herald invited Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws to provide to share updates about Whatcom County issues and projects. He invites citizens to contact him at 360-676-6717 or

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