State Records Retention and Disposition Schedules
A records retention and disposition schedule is a timetable that identifies the minimum length of time a record series must be retained before it is destroyed or transferred to the State Archives. Developed directly from the records survey, the schedule lists, by record series title, every record series created and maintained by the agency. Record series titles remain the same throughout the life cycle of the record series, from creation to disposition. The schedule also provides for the periodic transfer and disposition of all agency records. Go to retention schedule search.
The term disposition refers to the reatment of a records series at the end of the life cycle - either destruction or transfer to the State Archives.
K.S.A. 45-403 provides that
- "All government records made or received by and all government records coming into the custody, control or possession of a state or local agency, in the course of its public duties, and all government records deposited in the state archives shall not be mutilated, destroyed, transferred, removed, damaged or otherwise disposed of, in whole or part, except as provided by law, or as may be authorized in the retention and disposition schedules."
K.S.A. 45-404 grants the state records board the authority to "approve or modify retention and disposition schedules . . ." The statute also provides that "without further action by the board, noncurrent records of state agencies scheduled for disposition may be disposed of as provided in the schedules and noncurrent records scheduled for retention may be transferred to the state archives."
K.A.R. 53-4-1(3) requires records officers for Kansas state agencies to "prepare and submit retention and disposition schedules for the state agency's records for approval or modification to the state records board" in cooperation with the Historical Society staff.
Objectives of a Retention and Disposition Schedule
The objectives of a records retention and disposition schedule are:
- To transfer inactive records to the State Records Center until administrative, fiscal, and legal retention requirements are met.
- To destroy records that no longer have administrative, fiscal, legal, or historical value.
- To transfer to the State Archives noncurrent records that have enduring value.
- To minimize requirements for filing equipment and space.
- To ensure compliance with the Kansas Open Records Act.
- To assure the identification and protection of vital records.
General and Agency Schedules
Agencies should be aware that two types of retention and disposition schedules may apply to their records. The "General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule" includes guidelines for record series maintained by most state agenices. Travel vouchers, meeting minutes, and employee personnel records are examples of records described in the "General Schedule."
To address records not listed in the "General Schedule,"each agency also should have a specific records retention and dispositon schedule approved by the State Records Board. The "Agency Records Retention and Disposition Schedule" contains retention and disposition requirements for record series that are unique to the organization.
Elements of a Schedule
Records retention and disposition schedules include several key pieces of information about every record series used by an agency:
- Record series title and description
- Minimum retention period
- Final disposition requirements
- Access restrictions
- Vital record identification
These retention and disposition schedule elements are developed through an analysis of the data gathered during the comprehensive records survey.
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 survey. 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 State Records Center.
Records survey 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 resources--only 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.
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.
When determining minimum retention periods and final disposition requirements, the value of records can be broken down into four categories:
- Administrative value
- Fiscal value
- Legal value
- Historical value
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.
Records with administrative value can be policy records that document how an organization functions and how it is organized. 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 records--is 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 the State Archives.
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--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 the State Archives. Historical Society staff will work closely with agency personnel in appraising the historical value of records.
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 survey forms. Agencies are advised to have their legal counsel review all access restrictions noted on the retention and disposition schedule.
Vital Record Identification
The records retention and disposition schedule identifies whether an agency considers a record series to be a vital record. Information on whether a record series would be vital to an agency's ability to continue functioning during a disaster and/or to reestablish operations following a disaster should be available from the records survey form.
Schedule Approval Process
The schedule approval process in the state of Kansas involves close cooperation between agency personnel, Historical Society staff, and the State Records Board.
Once the comprehensive records survey is complete, survey forms should be submitted to the Records Management Section of the Historical Society. Records Management Section staff, working with State Archives personnel, will use the survey data to prepare a draft records retention and disposition schedule. The draft will be returned to the agency records officer who will coordinate an internal agency review of the schedule. Agencies 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. Records Management Section staff will incorporate into a revised draft of the schedule all modifications generated by the agency review. The final schedule, which represents the product of cooperation between agency staff and the Historical Society, will then be presented to the State Records Board for consideration at a quarterly meeting. The agency 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 agency representatives may vote on their agency's proposed schedule as ad hoc members of the State Records Board. Once the schedule has been approved, an agency may begin implementation immediately.
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 agency records, must be reevaluated and updated periodically to reflect structural and functional changes within the organization. The procedures followed in establishing the agency'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.
Implementing the Schedule
The purpose of a retention and disposition schedule is to establish a pattern for the transfer or destruction of records on a continuing basis. A schedule is of little value, however, unless it is applied regularly. If, after an initial house cleaning, the schedule is ignored, the results will be disappointing and the problem of accumulating unneeded records will remain unsolved.
Careful timing of the destruction and transfer of records reduces handling costs both in the agency and in the State Records Center. Records become ready for destruction or transfer every day of the year; however, to dispose of them so often would be impractical and inefficient. Experience has shown that normally records should be destroyed or transferred to the records center once a year. Deviations from an annual timetable may be justified if records accumulate so rapidly that more frequent disposition is necessary. Management support for schedule implementation is essential to an effective records management program. Agency staff must be given the time and authority to conduct the recommended annual evaluation and purge of their records. It is also important that the records officer provide training to agency personnel to ensure that all staff members understand schedule implementation procedures.
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 agency 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 an agency to more effectively manage records as a valuable and expensive resource. 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.