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Local Government Records Committee Seeks Comments on Policy

The Local Government Records Committee (LGRC) is the legal body that establishes retention schedules and record keeping policies for municipal governments. The LGRC is proposing a new policy regarding permanent records and updating its policy on electronic records. The LGRC is requesting public comment on the new policy through the Pennsylvania State Archives, which serves as the secretariat for the Committee. Interested persons are invited to submit written comments, suggestions or objections regarding the proposed policy to be included in the Municipal Records Manual by submitting a form on the website or they may be submitted to Cynthia Bendroth, Chief, Records Services Division, Pennsylvania State Archives, PA Historical and Museum Commission, 350 North St. Harrisburg, PA 17120, 717-783-7330, RA-LocalGovernment@pa.gov no later than January 31, 2019.

 Statutory Authority

In accordance with The Municipal Records Act (53 P.S. § § 9001—9010), The Local Government Records Committee (LGRC) establishes retention schedules for municipal governments as well as policies regarding records keeping. A municipality must have its governing body pass a resolution to agree to follow the Municipal Records Manual (MRM).

Background

Municipalities that follow the MRM currently have two options for permanent records (the policy change applies only to records with a permanent retention): they can keep records in paper or they can microfilm the paper. If a municipality microfilms records, they may request authorization from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) to destroy the original paper. Offices that keep permanent records electronically are currently required to keep an additional copy in a “human-readable” format of paper or microfilm. Municipalities are creating more records electronically and may find it less expensive than keeping paper or microfilming. There have been requests from municipalities for the LGRC to allow permanent records to be kept in electronic format.
Municipalities are finding that records in electronic format may be are less expensive to store, easier to back up for disaster recovery, easier to share, and simpler to access and use than microfilm or paper documents. Microfilming has become more expensive, fewer companies provide the filming services, equipment is difficult to find, replace or maintain, and microfilm readers are expensive. Paper is often expensive to store and difficult to retrieve.
In addition, the MRM had chapters on optical disks, electronic records, and email. These chapters were merged and updated.

Purpose

The purpose of the policy change is to provide municipalities with the option of retaining permanent records in electronic form if they do so in a format (PDF/A) that experts believe can be preserved for very long periods of time. Municipalities will still have the option of retaining permanent records in paper or microfilm if they choose to do so.
The policy on optical disks was deleted since the technology is no longer prevalent. The revised electronic records policy provides advice on social media, email and updated practices.

Fiscal Impact

Some municipalities may find that retaining permanent records in electronic form will reduce the costs of storage, paper, and microfilm services; however, such savings could be reduced (perhaps significantly) by the cost of redundant storage for the electronic records, which is required by the policy.

Reporting, Recordkeeping and Paperwork Requirements

Municipalities will submit a one-time notification to PHMC for each series of records they intend to keep in accordance with the policy. The form, which will be in the Municipal Records Manual, states that “a municipality will be keeping permanent records in conformance to the policy and guidelines, which require municipalities to quality check all their scans.” The municipality will sign that they agree to follow the policy.

Effective Date

The changes will be implemented once the LGRC votes to approve the policy and amendments.

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