Fewer foreclosures mean fewer trustee’s office jobs

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As foreclosures have fallen, so have the El Paso County Trustee’s staffing needs.

Trustee Tom Mowle said the workload in his office dropped 18 percent between the end of the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011.

And that prompted him to cut his staff by 10 percent, from 10 employees to nine.

But Mowle says that’s just another example of how he runs a lean, tight operation.

For instance, when Mowle started working at the trustee’s office in 2007, he said the workload was about the same as it is today, but the previous trustee had 13.5 full-time positions in the office.

It might have been justified because Mowle said El Paso County has a greater workload than any other county in the state, even with the recent drop in activity. And the office was processing a record number of deed releases then, which pay more than foreclosures.

The workload reduction between the end of 2010 and start of 2011 was from 1,670 units of work to 1,373, Mowle said.

A unit of work constitutes one foreclosure or about 24 deed releases, which come from the sale or refinancing of a home.

Every foreclosure generates an average of $200 in revenue for Mowle’s office and takes roughly two hours to complete, he said. Though some take more and some take less time. Each deed release generates $15. Mowle’s office can process about 24 deed releases in the time it typically takes to complete one foreclosure, which then generates $360 per unit of work.

Mowle also said the trustee’s office was losing money on foreclosures before he began working there.

Each one cost about $240 to $250 to process and the trustee, who is appointed by the governor and is not a county-supported entity, was not paying rent to El Paso County for office space.

When he took over, Mowle set out to reduce costs and pay money to the county.

He has since reduced staffing by about 30 percent, reduced the cost of processing a foreclosure to square it with the revenue it generates and paid rent to the county.

“You have to be efficient,” Mowle said. “And you have to treat the office and run it like it’s a business. It’s about being good stewards of taxpayer money.”

Mowle also said the nature of his office’s work has changed and that he now deals with more foreclosures than deed releases. And foreclosures do not generate as much revenue as homes going through standard market sales.

New foreclosure filings continue to fall in El Paso County. The Colorado Department of Housing this week that reported that new foreclosure filings dropped 32.5 percent from 382 last may to 254 this May.

While the continuing drops in the number of new foreclosure filings are likely to mean a reduction in the workload for the trustee’s office, it takes a while for staffing levels and even real needs to catch up.

Mowle’s office is still processing foreclosures that started in December and January, he said. They take quite a while to work through the system.

That could explain why the county’s number of foreclosure sales at auction only fell 12.2 percent from last May to this May, according to the department of housing figures. Several foreclosures are still working their ways through the system.

While new foreclosure filings are on their way down and the trend is promising, Mowle said there was one discouraging piece of information. In raw numbers, El Paso County now has the second highest number of foreclosures in the state, behind only Denver County.

El Paso County has historically ranked fourth, Mowle said.

“That’s not a list that you want to get to the top of,” he said.