Local Records Retention Schedules
Chapter 2 Records Retention Schedules
Schedules help individuals to manage records systematically by specifying how long, where, and in what format they will be kept and what their final disposition will be.
Preparation and Approval
Records analysts appraise the records and prepare a records retention/disposition schedule by using the data compiled during the inventory, using statewide precedents, and discussing the records with records custodians. The scheduling process is ongoing and involves close cooperation among the state archives, local officials and some state agencies whose policies and procedures affect local government records. Our staff prepares most of the schedules for county offices; if local government officials will be preparing them, they must consult with the Local Records Program before submitting them to the State Records Board for final approval.
Approved schedules do not preempt good judgement. If records are needed for legal or audit purposes beyond the recommended retention period check with the proper agency authority before destroying the records.
Types of Schedules
The Records Management Section is involved in approving and issuing two kinds of retention/disposition schedules for local government records:
General Schedules: These schedules are designed for record series local government offices have in common such as personnel records, purchasing records, financial records, and so forth. Generally, records listed in the General Schedule will not appear in the Office Specific Schedules
Office Specific Schedules: These schedules are designed for a specific local government office. Records contained therein are, in most instances, unique to that particular office. Records that exist in multiple copies will be listed in the office of origin. Other copies should be kept only until no longer useful.
What Schedules Include
Every record series listed on a schedule includes a records series title (and variant titles, if need for identification); a brief description of the record's function and its contents; a minimum retention period (the length of time the records must be kept); final disposition requirements; any access restrictions (if applicable).
Record Series Title and Description The record series title and description can be taken directly from the form prepared for the series during the records inventory. The title should clearly identify the record series ( "Miscellaneous" is not an acceptable title) while the description should summarize concisely the nature and purpose of the series.
Minimum Retention Period and Final Disposition Records retention and disposition schedules include guidelines establishing the minimum period that an agency must retain custody of each record series and the final disposition requirements for the series. The retention guidelines also may contain recommendations prescribing the period of time a series should be retained in agency office space and the time when records should be transferred to the inactive storage.
Records inventory data should be evaluated to determine the retention period best suited to a record series. No record should be destroyed while it still has significant value. On the other hand, no record should be retained after its value has been exhausted. Records should be kept for as long as they are needed and not for as long as they are wanted. Maintaining records uses valuable resourcesConly records of value should be maintained. A typical record will have most of its value immediately after its receipt or creation. This value generally decreases over time. In establishing a minimum retention period for a record series, determine the point at which the record has virtually no value.
Access Restrictions A records retention and disposition schedule also contains information about any access restrictions that apply to a record series. The Kansas Open Records Act requires most government records to be open to public inspection. Certain categories of records, however, may be closed. Specific federal or state statutes and regulations may restrict public access to certain records. Access restriction information should be available from records inventory forms. Offices are advised to have their legal counsel review all access restrictions noted on the retention and disposition schedule.
Analysis and Appraisal To establish a retention period , records analysts use the process of analysis and appraisal. They analyze the information the records holds, study its use and its relationship to other records, and establish its value.
Records analysts appraise records series in terms of their administrative, fiscal, legal, and historical value and must consider all four to establish retention periods.
Administrative Value relates to how long an agency needs to retain a record series to meet its own business needs. Administrative value pertains to the need for records in performing current work as well as in performing future work.
Policy records, which generally have long term or even permanent value, include:
- Policy and procedure manuals
- Organizational charts
- Annual reports
- Legal opinions
- Correspondence establishing a course of action for the agency.
Most records with administrative value are not policy records. The majority are operational records that document the implementation of an agency's policies. For example, a records disposition form is an operational record because it implements the policy established by the retention schedule.
Determining retention periods for records with administrative value, particularly operational recordsCis not always easy. Retention can vary greatly depending upon what the records document. In most cases the primary administrative value of records will be exhausted when the transactions to which they relate are completed. As a general rule, file activity can be used to guide retention requirements for operational records. When agency staff no longer have need to refer to a record series, the administrative value diminishes and the records probably are ready for final disposition.
Records with Fiscal Value document an agency's financial transactions. Budgets, ledgers, payrolls, and vouchers are examples of records that have fiscal value. Retention periods for records with fiscal value are most often determined by audit requirements.
The Legal Value of records can take two forms. Some records have intrinsic legal value because they contain evidence of legally enforceable rights or obligations of the government.
Among records having intrinsic legal value are:
Documents showing the basis for action (legal decisions, opinions).
Legal agreements (contracts, titles, leases).
Records of actions taken in particular cases (claims, dockets).
Records with intrinsic legal value, particularly those that document the legal rights of citizens, often have enduring value and should be considered for transfer to permanent archival storage.
Legal value can also take the form of statutes and regulations- state and federal- that set legal retention periods for some record series. Statutory or regulatory requirements for specific records retention periods are infrequent. Usually statutes and regulations relate to actions rather than records. Records retention may be inferred, however, by the need to provide evidence of a particular action. It is imperative to consider the legal retention requirements of records. It makes retention scheduling easier and more effective, and it will protect an agency from litigation resulting from improperly retained records.
Determining the final disposition of a record series requires the consideration of a final record value or Historical Value.
Even though records may have lost their administrative, fiscal, and legal value it is possible that the records still have historical value and for this reason should be retained. Records that contain authentic evidence of an agency's organization, function, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities have some historical value. These records usually show an agency's origin, its administrative development, and its present organizational structure. This type of information may be found in policy records, organizational documents, memos, correspondence, or reports.
Those records that have been identified as historical records and are not used in the agency's daily operations should be transferred to a local repository or the state archives for permanent storage. Our staff will work closely with local government personnel in appraising the historical value of records.
Review and Approval
General Schedules: General schedules issued as state regulations are available for your use and require no additional review and approval. Contact the local records archivist for information on how to apply and use general schedules.
Specific Schedules: Specific schedules must be reviewed and approved according to the provision of the Government Records Preservation Act and the Public Records Act. This review and approval process is outlined below.
After our staff or a local official prepare a schedule, it will be reviewed by archives and records management personnel with input from appropriate local government representatives. It will then be submitted to the State Records Board for approval. At this point, the schedule becomes a legal, enforceable document, which gives you the authority to maintain and dispose of each record as specified.
Schedule Approval Process
The schedule approval process in the state of Kansas involves close cooperation between office personnel, Historical Society staff, and the State Records Board.
Once the comprehensive records inventory is complete, inventory forms should be submitted to the local records archivist of the Historical Society. Working with State Archives personnel, the local records archivist will use the inventory data to prepare a draft records retention and disposition schedule. The draft will be returned to the local government records officer who will conduct a review of the schedule. Local governments are advised to have their legal counsel carefully examine the schedule during the internal review to ensure that it addresses all applicable legal retention requirements and access restrictions. Local Records Program staff will incorporate into a revised draft of the schedule all modifications generated by the local government's review.
The final schedule, which represents the product of cooperation between local government staff and the Historical Society, will then be presented to the State Records Board for consideration at a quarterly meeting. The local government records officer and other appropriate staff members are encouraged to attend the meeting to respond to questions that board members may have about the schedule. In addition, two representatives from the local government may vote on the proposed schedule as ad hoc members of the State Records Board. Once the schedule has been approved, the local government may begin implementation immediately.
Revisions and Amendments
Sometimes it may be necessary to revise a schedule to reflect changes in administrative, legal, or fiscal requirements. The change may involve a title, a description, a retention period, or a disposition. When we/you revise a retention period or disposition, it must be sent through the review and approval process again. If you feel a schedule needs revision please contact the local records archivist.
Updating the Schedule
Records retention and disposition schedules are dynamic documents. Government agencies and the records they create naturally evolve over time. Retention and disposition schedules, if they are to remain effective tools for managing records, must be reevaluated and updated periodically to reflect structural and functional changes The procedures followed in establishing the office's original retention and disposition schedule must be repeated when making additions or revisions to the schedule.
It is important that any change or addition to a retention schedule be made promptly and that those persons using the schedule be notified immediately. Any delay increases the chance of someone relying on an incorrect schedule.
Disposition comes at the end of a record's life cycle and tells you whether it should be destroyed or transferred to an archives. Timely and consistent disposition increases safety and efficiency and decreases expenses. Records can be disposed of in one of two ways:
Physical Destruction: shredded, burned, discarded or recycled.
Transfer of Ownership: sent to an approved local repository or KSHS
The Government Records Preservation Act, 45-401 through 45-413, and the Public Records Act, 75-3501 through 75-3518 say no public records can be destroyed or removed from public custody unless their destruction is authorized by an approved records schedule.
Benefits of Compliance
When staff uses mandated, statewide procedures for the disposition of records, they will be following a consistent policy with uniform standards. The benefits of such disposition are:
- Economies in space, equipment, supplies, and staff time.
- Increases in efficiency and safety through the removal of obsolete files.
- The avoidance of lawsuits.
Liabilities of Premature Disposal
If records are destroyed before their retention periods expire, you will endanger the public interest because you will risk:
- The expenses of a legal settlement and the loss of revenues.
- Gaps in information the could disrupt efficiency.
- The irretrievable loss of historical data.
Liabilities of Non-disposal
Records have a lifespan. Useless records, like other waste products, become a burden. If you maintain records beyond their useful life you will incur:
- Unnecessary expenditures for space, equipment, and supplies.
- A reduction in efficiency as your accumulation of old records slows access to active ones.
- Threats to your safety because of carelessly stored records.
A solid records management program begins with a records inventory which allows staff to gain knowledge of office records holdings and allows them to plan for future needs. Records are inventoried and scheduled in groups called records series, which are identical or related records that are normally filed, used, and disposed of as a unit.
A records retention and disposition schedule is an essential tool in establishing a sound records management program. Establishing and implementing a State Records Board approved schedule ensures that an office is in compliance with all federal and state statutes and regulations concerning the management, preservation, and disposition of government records. By regulating the storage and treatment of records during all phases of the records life cycle, the schedule also allows office staff to more effectively manage records. It is important to remember, however, that even the very best of records retention and disposition schedules is useless if it is not systematically applied to all records listed.