The Local Record
Winter 1996

A Quarterly Newsletter of the
State and Local Records Management Division

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Contents

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Visit Our New Web Site

http://www.tsl.texas.gov/

Come visit us! The newest resource at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission's Web site on the Internet is the homepage for the State and Local Records Management Division.

Here is a sample of what records management officers, other local government staff, and the public can find by "surfing" to our site.

  • Complete texts of state laws governing records management in local governments and state agencies.
  • Commission rules concerning microfilming and the electronic storage of state and local government records.
  • The current edition of all records retention schedules issued by the commission establishing minimum retention periods for state and local government records.
  • A schedule of our records management workshops, as well as class descriptions. The schedule now online runs through the end of February. The schedule for our Spring–Summer Series will be posted at the site in late January.
  • Select the name of the county in which your government is located and find the name, phone number, and e-mail address of the government records consultant who is assigned to advise you on records management issues. Then either call the consultant or e-mail your questions.
  • Information about our imaging services that are available to local governments on a cost recovery basis.
  • Links to the Attorney General (information on open records and open meetings), the Secretary of State (the Texas Administrative Code and the Texas Register), the Code of Federal Regulations, among others.

And COMING SOON—online registration for training classes, our forms available for downloading, and the ability to search commission records retention schedules by keyword.

While visiting the State and Local Records Management Division Web site, we encourage you to look at the other programs of the Texas State Library.

Currently posted on the homepage for the Archives and Information Services Division are various documents relating to the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board, whose recommendations concern the preservation of the historical records of both state agencies and local governments. The Texas State Electronic Library provides a full and convenient gateway to information about Texas government.

We welcome your suggestions concerning our homepage. Tell us what else you would like to see!

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Records Retention Schedule Clarification

This column will appear occasionally in The Local Record and will clarify the meaning and intent of records descriptions or retention periods that appear in records retention schedules issued by the commission. As the schedules are revised, wording will be added or amended to clarify our intent.

Until Superseded?
A Closer Look at a Retention Period

A commonly found retention period in local government records retention schedules issued by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is "until superseded." Occasionally, the retention period is expressed simply as until superseded; that is, a record is eligible for immediate destruction when it has been replaced by an updated version. Usually, however, an additional period of retention is required. For example, the retention period for job evaluations of local government employees, other than public school teachers, is until superseded + 2 years (see item number 1050-21(b) in Local Schedule GR); for equipment or property inventories it is until superseded + 3 years (see item number 1025-05(c) in Local Schedule GR).

As long as a record is routinely superseded by a new, updated version, the retention period works as it should. But what if for some reason a record governed by an until superseded retention period is no longer superseded? Is a local government then obliged to keep the record forever because the retention period no longer operates? No.

Here are three examples of how supersession occurs, not by the usual method of replacement, but by the occurrence of another action.

  • If a record is no longer created or received or is no longer required by law, the date of supersession is the date the decision to discontinue the record is made or the law takes effect.

    Example: A city has regulatory authority over a public utility. The utility is required to submit tariffs containing schedules of all rates, tolls, charges, and regulations pertaining to all services provided by the utility. Under item number 5000-15(b) in Local Schedule PW, the city must retain the tariffs until they are superseded. The city council decides that the city will no longer exercise regulatory authority over the utility. The current set of tariffs maintained by the city will not be superseded and is now eligible for destruction.

  • If a policy or procedure document is revoked, expires according to its terms, or is no longer applicable because the activity it concerns is no longer performed, the date of supersession is the date of revocation, expiration, or cessation of the activity.

    Example: A school district collects its own property taxes and maintains an accounting manual for use by personnel in the tax office. The retention period for the manual under item number 1025-25 in Local Schedule GR is until superseded + 5 years. The school board decides to contract with its county appraisal district to collect taxes for the school district and then close its tax office. The manual will not be superseded in the customary way. The date of supersession is the date the tax collection activity is transferred to the appraisal district.

  • If the record relates to an employee, the date of supersession is the date of termination or the last date the record is needed with reference to the employee, as applicable.

    Example #1: Mary resigns as director of human resources at a government-owned hospital to take another position. Her work performance had been periodically evaluated. Her performance appraisals are maintained in her personnel file and retained until superseded + 2 years, as noted above. Her last performance appraisal will not be superseded. The date of supersession dates from the date of her termination.

    Example #2: John leaves a river authority to take a position with a municipal utility district. His payroll checks have been deposited directly to his bank by authority of a direct deposit authorization on file in the payroll office. The payroll office has to retain the authorization until it is superseded under item number 1050-51 in Local Schedule GR. The authorization will not be superseded.

    Does the date of supersession, then, date from the date of his termination? Yes, but only if he will not be receiving any more payroll or other types of checks from the river authority under the authorization. Let's say John has accumulated a great many vacation hours and will continue to be carried on the payroll of the river authority for two more months. In this case, the date of supersession will be the date the authorization is no longer needed by the river authority to deposit checks to John's bank.

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Rules Adopted on Copy Charges

The cost of providing public information is not necessarily the same as the charges made for providing copies of that information. By state law, the General Services Commission (GSC) must publish prices for state and local government agencies to use when charging for copies of public information.

House Bill (H.B.) 1718, passed by the 74th Texas Legislature in 1995, changed Chapter 552, Government Code, including its title to the Public Information Act (formerly called the Open Records Act). The changes are to increase the public's access to government information, particularly for requests of public information kept in electronic forms. The Legislature also directed the GSC to adopt rules that each governmental body must use to charge for furnishing copies of public information. Most of H.B. 1718 became effective September 1, 1995.

GSC Rules

On August 27, the GSC adopted Rule Sections 111.61 to 111.70 for copy charges of public information. The rules became effective September 18, 1996. The Public Information Act provides that governmental bodies—other than state agencies—may determine their own charges for producing public information but shall not charge more than a 25 percent variance from the amount specified in the GSC rules. The GSC rules do not apply to charges for specific kinds of public information that other laws address.

A governmental body may request in writing to GSC that it be exempt from part or all of the GSC rules, stating the reason for the exemption and its proposed charges. The GSC must decide if good cause exists for the exemption. GSC exemptions are not automatic or retroactive. The GSC is required to publish annually in the Secretary of State's Texas Register a list of the governmental bodies that have GSC authorization to adopt modified charges.

A governmental body may choose to follow Section 552.267 of the Public Information Act, which mandates providing a copy of public information without a charge or at a reduced charge if the governmental body determines that is in the public interest not to charge. The governmental body decides furnishing the information primarily benefits the general public. Finally, the governmental body may waive a public information charge if the cost of processing will exceed the charge.

Public Information Charges

The GSC has established open records charges for different types of information noted in the chart on page 5. The new charges update those published by the GSC as guidelines in past years. Previously, government bodies were not required to follow the GSC rules but now they must, with procedures for requesting certain exemptions.

The GSC price schedules set reasonable fees that cover the actual cost of providing the information. The fees are not set so high that access to public information is restricted. The GSC charges are based on estimated average costs of providing information by governmental bodies across the state.

The rules set out two types of public information requests—standard paper copy and nonstandard copy. A standard copy is "a printed impression on one side of a piece of paper that measures up to 8 1/2 x 14 inches." Each side of a piece of paper is counted as a single copy; paper printed on both sides is counted as two copies.

A nonstandard copy is a copy of public information in a form other than a standard paper copy. Examples include microfiche, microfilm, diskettes, magnetic tapes, CD-ROM and paper copies larger than 8 1/2 by 14 inches.

Definitions of items or services and charges listed in the chart include the following:

  • Actual cost is the sum of all direct costs plus a proportional share of overhead or indirect costs. To determine actual costs, governmental bodies may utilize the cost methodology adopted by the Council on Competitive Government.
  • Mainframe computers are located in a controlled environment and serving large applications with a large number of users. Mainframes include IBM and UNISYS mainframes, Digital VAX 9000 and VAX Clusters.
  • Midsize computers are smaller than a mainframe and include IBM AS/400 and Digital VAX/VMS.
  • Client/server system is a combination of two or more computers that serve a particular application through sharing processing, data storage and end-user interface presentation. Personal computers (PCs) located in a LAN environment and applications running in an X-window environment on a UNIX based system fall into this category.
  • Computer resource charge is the utilization charge for computers, based on the amortized cost of acquiring, leasing, operating and maintaining computer resources. The charges are averages based on a survey of governmental bodies and excludes programming or printing time. The time, called CPU time, is the actual time required for the computer to execute a program.
  • Programming personnel charge is for a request that requires programmer services to execute an existing program or create a program. Any personnel time spent in performing services other than programming should be charged under other personnel charges. The hourly rate includes fringe benefits.
  • Other personnel charge includes the actual personnel time to locate, compile and reproduce the requested information. Personnel time is recovered for time spent blacking out or obscuring confidential information mixed in with public information on the same page. Other personnel charges, however, do not apply to requests that are for 50 or fewer pages of paper records, unless the records are located in more than one building or a remote storage facility. Attorney or legal time spent to review requests for exceptions from the Public Information Act or to prepare requests to the attorney general's office are not recovered as other personnel charges.
  • Overhead charge is to recover any direct or indirect charge, such as depreciation of capital assets, rent, maintenance and repair, utilities and administrative overhead. An overhead charge may be computed at 20 percent of the charge made to cover any personnel costs. An overhead charge shall not be made for requests of 50 or fewer pages of standard paper records.
  • Microfiche and microfilm charges shall not exceed the cost of reproduction. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has the capability to reproduce microfiche and microfilm.
  • Remote document retrieval charges may be added if the governmental body must pay a charge to locate, retrieve, deliver and return to storage needed records.
  • Miscellaneous supplies charge is the actual cost of labels, boxes and other supplies used to produce the requested information.
  • Postal and shipping charges are those expenses to transmit the reproduced information.

Hadassah Schloss, GSC's open records administrator, at 512-475-2497, can provide information on the GSC charges and exemptions.

Points to Remember

Several points that local government officials should remember when charging for copies of public information include:

  • The governmental body may not make a profit when filling a request for public information.
  • The governmental body may not charge sales tax for public information requests.
  • The public information charge should not include any personnel charges or overhead charges when complying with requests that are for 50 or fewer pages of standard paper copies, unless the exceptions provided in Section 552.261 apply.
  • Types of media on which public information is recorded include paper, film, tape, mylar, linen, silk, vellum and any magnetic, optical or solid state device that can store an electronic signal.
  • No charge is imposed for a request to inspect public information in a standard paper form. A charge is permitted when a person asks to inspect information that contains confidential information to cover the editing or marking out of the confidential information, limited to the charge of the paper copy. Regardless of the number of copies, no other charge is allowed.

Section 552.269 of the Public Information Act includes a complaint process for persons who believe that governmental entities have overcharged for copies of public information. A person may file a written complaint with the General Services Commission (GSC) about an alleged overcharge, stating the reasons why the person believes that charges are excessive. The GSC will review each complaint and issue a written decision as to the correct charge for the public information. Governmental bodies have 10 days to respond in writing to GSC questions about an overcharge complaint.

If the GSC determines that a governmental body has overcharged, the governmental body must adjust its charges and refund the difference between the charges. A person who overpays because a governmental body refuses or fails to follow GSC rules may recover three times the amount of the overcharge if the governmental body did not act in good faith in computing the charges. GSC does not determine good faith compliance.

Reprinted with permission from the STATEMENT newsletter, October 1996 issue, published by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

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General Services Commission Charge Schedule

Item or Service Charge
Standard paper copy $0.10 per page
Nonstandard size copy
 
Diskette 1.00 each
Magnetic tape  
4mm 13.50 each
8mm 12.00 each
9 track 11.00 each
Data cartridge  
2000 series 17.50 each
3000 series 20.00 each
6000 series 25.00 each
9000 series 35.00 each
600A 20.00 each
 
Tape cartridge
250 MB 38.00 each
525 MB 45.00 each
 
VHS video cassette 2.50 each
 
Audio cassette 1.00 each
 
Oversized paper copy 0.50 each
 
Mylar (36", 42" and 48")
3 mil. 0.85/linear foot
4 mil. 1.10/linear foot
5 mil. 1.35/linear foot
 
Blueline/blueprint paper 0.20/linear foot
 
Other Actual cost
Personnel charge
Programming personnel 26.00 per hour
Other personnel 15.00 per hour
Overhead charge 20% of personnel charge
 
Microfiche or microfilm charge
Paper copy 0.10 per page
Fiche or film copy Actual cost
Remote document retrieval charge Actual cost
 
Computer resource charge
Mainframe 10.00 per minute
Midsize 1.50 per minute
Client/server 2.20 per hour
PC or LAN 1.00 per hour
Miscellaneous supplies Actual cost
Postage and shipping charge Actual cost
Photographs Actual cost
Other costs Actual cost

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We Get Questions

Q. Help! I've discovered silverfish in my records. Are they a problem? What should I do?

Silverfish are a problem as they like to feed on paper, book bindings, sizing, linen and cotton—common components of government records. Control should consist of both prevention and treatment.

Since silverfish are more likely to develop in moist environments, maintaining relative humidity in the range of 50% can provide some control over their development and the suitability of the food source (your records). Control and eliminate sources of moisture such as leaky plumbing. Good air circulation will help reduce microclimates of moist air that may remain. Keep in mind that good air circulation is enhanced by storing boxed records on shelving, allowing for airspace on all sides of the boxes.

Records that are maintained in a clean, neat environment are less susceptible to silverfish infestation. Vacuum thoroughly, keep papers filed, do not maintain stacks of records or boxes directly on the floor.

Professional extermination is the best action for immediate control, especially if the infestation is severe. Severe infestations may also require you to remove documents from filing equipment and containers to literally shake them out. (Be prepared to squash silverfish as they emerge). New boxes may be necessary since they may be residing within the walls of the boxes.

To prevent re-infestation, you may find that caulking crevices may help, in addition to controlling humidity and maintaining a neat records environment.

Q. Our city police department is storing images of fingerprints and their index on WORM disks. When the court orders an expungement, we delete the indexes but not the fingerprint image. The fingerprints cannot be read, like a document can be read. Even if you were to find the fingerprint, you couldn't tell whose it was. Do we still have to delete these?

Yes, you need to expunge the actual fingerprint images. Expungement is defined as the removal and destruction, usually court ordered, of an image or images and index from the WORM disk. Expungement may be accomplished by overwriting the disk (if possible) or by rewriting the information (other than the expunged data) to a new disk.

Q. One of our former justices of the peace served as a local registrar for births and deaths in our county. The records have been transferred to our storage facility by the current holder of the office. We have compared his birth and death records with those of the county clerk and find that all the records are duplicated in those of the county clerk. Can we destroy the birth and death records of the justice of the peace?

No. Section 191.026, Health and Safety Code, requires that each birth, death, and fetal death record be retained permanently by the local registrar. The former justice of the peace served as a local registrar by virtue of the office. Consequently, the records must remain a permanent part of the records of the office.

Q. Is it really true that any one person can claim credit for having developed administrative rules for state or local government records? I have seen this in vendor advertising.

The process of developing administrative rules for Texas government records is never accomplished by a single individual and this claim is grossly misleading. As rules are researched and drafted, a number of State Library staff are involved in reviewing the content, making comments, and recommending changes. In addition, state and local government employees and private industry members review the proposed rules to provide input as the rules are prepared in final form.

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Page last modified: March 14, 2012