Compliance 101 for Local Governments: Retention Schedules

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Once a local government has filed a records management policy and designated a records management officer, the final step to achieving records management compliance is formally making a decision on how to retain government records. As stated in the Local Government Records Act, one of the responsibilities of a records management officer is to “prepare and file with the director and librarian the records control schedules and amended schedules required by Section 203.041.”

According to that section, a records control schedule should list “all records created or received by the local government or elective county office,” and establish retention periods for each record. Alternately, a local government or elective county office can file “a written certification of compliance that the local government or the elective county office has adopted records control schedules that comply with the minimum requirements established on records retention schedules issued by the commission.”

So, a government office has three choices when making a retention decision: adopt TSLAC’s local government schedules, create a custom records control schedule, or keep everything permanently.

The Easy Way: Declaration of Compliance

SLR 508: Declaration of Compliance If you don’t want to or are unable to do all the work involved with creating a custom retention schedule or keeping everything permanently, then you can simply choose to adopt any of the twelve local government retention schedules using our form SLR 508: Declaration of Compliance.

Fill out the top half of the form with your government’s information, and then simply check off which schedules you want to adopt in Section 2. The records management officer designated in the government’s policy will sign the form and mail to the address at the bottom of the form.

We have twelve schedules – applicable to various forms of government – but that doesn’t mean you need to adopt all of them. You should only adopt the schedules that have records series relevant to your government. However, there is one schedule that all governments MUST adopt: schedule GR: Records Common to all Local Governments. This schedule covers records that every local government creates, such as administrative, financial, and personnel records. If you’re not sure which schedules you should adopt, contact us and we can help you choose.

We aim to revise our schedules as often as we can, but it can be a long complicated process; not as easy as opening a Word doc and editing it ourselves. When we do publish revised editions, we’ll announce it here on our blog and for convenience no action is needed on your part to stay in compliance. However, you do need to make sure that everyone in your government who follows the schedules is aware of the changes that have been made.

The Detailed Way: Records Control Schedule

SLR 500: Local Government Records Control ScheduleIf you want to create and file your own retention schedule we have a template you can start with: the SLR 500 Local Government Records Control Schedule (Instructions).

We recommend beginning with an inventory of your records to see what you’ve got, and then compare your inventory to the local government retention schedules to ensure that you’re meeting all of TSLAC’s prescribed minimum records retention periods.

Complete the form SLR 500 with all required information about each record series. If you prefer to format your own control schedule, you aren’t required to use the SLR 500, but your schedule must contain all the elements on the SLR 500 for each item: a record series number, title, description, retention period, and any applicable remarks. You may have records series that do not have a description or remarks to go with them, and that’s ok – you would just leave those boxes blank. When reviewing submitted schedules, we will look for all the required elements and if necessary we’ll send you a review memo detailing any needed revisions.

SLR 540: Records Control Schedule Certification and AcceptanceIn order for us to accept a custom records control schedule for filing, you also need to fill out a cover sheet – form SLR 540: Records Control Schedule – Certification and Acceptance – which provides the following information:

  • Section 1 – The purpose of the schedule: is it an original filing, amended to replace an older schedule, or an amendment to an existing schedule?
  • Section 2 – Provides contact information for the local government
  • Section 3 – It must be signed by the RMO designated in the records management policy.

If you’d like to add unique records series that does not appear on our local government retention schedules, then use the form SLR 520 accompanied by the cover sheet.

We’ve seen governments submit a records control schedule, but every records series was copied directly from our local government schedules. Some governments do this to omit records series that are not applicable to their offices. Other times, governments want to divide up our schedules into different groupings for different departments. In that case, we recommend that you simply adopt our retention schedules, and then maintain those specially formatted versions of the schedules internally.

Amending or Superseding a Records Control Schedule

SLR 520: Local Government Records Control Schedule AmendmentLet’s say you want to make a change to a previously filed records control schedule—or you’ve adopted our schedules but want to make a retention period longer or maybe add a new records series that doesn’t appear on our schedules. For these cases, you would use the form SLR 520: Amendment to Local Government Records Control Schedule (Instructions). You would also need to submit the coversheet – form SLR 540 – and mark “Amendment to Schedule or Supplemental Records Control Schedule” in Section 1.

If you previously had a records control schedule on file, but would like to adopt the TSLAC retention schedules, then simply fill out a form SLR 508 as outlined above and select the schedules you want to adopt. Then, in section 2 on that form, select the option “are superseded by this declaration.” That means that if you had a records control schedule or amendments on file, they would no longer apply. From that point forward, you would only follow our schedules.

If you would rather not have your Declaration supersede a previous control schedule, then check off the second option. Then you will have what we call a combination schedule. This means that in addition to following the schedules that you’ve adopted, you will also follow your own records control schedule. If there’s a conflict between our schedule and your schedule for a retention period, you must adhere to the longer retention period.

The Permanent, Keep-Everything-Forever Way

If you choose not to file a records control schedule or a Declaration of Compliance, then by law you have to keep all your records permanently. If you make this choice, it is a good idea to say so directly in your policy. A simple statement such as “The Waterloo Water Improvement District plans to keep all records permanently,” will suffice.

Summary

Your government entity has three retention options for fulfilling Section 203.041 of the Local Government Records Act:

  • File a Declaration of Compliance – form SLR 508 – to adopt TSLAC’s retention schedules.
  • File a custom records control schedule using form SLR 500 or a comparable format.
  • Keep all records permanently, forever.

We have templates and forms to get you started with adopting TSLAC schedules or creating a custom records control schedule. Check out our webinars Compliance 101 and Retention 101 to learn more about these processes!