Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund
Shared Services Grants
What are Shared Services Grants?
Shared services grants provide funding for two or more local governments to cooperate on a grants project that will develop a permanent cooperative arrangement to solve a shared records management problem.
How Does an Applicant Prove That the Project Will Lead to a Permanent Arrangement?
A shared services application must demonstrate how the grant project will establish a permanent cooperative relationship between governments that results in sustainable programmatic change. You can demonstrate a long-term commitment to this relationship in one or more of the following ways:
- An inter-municipal agreement, which is a legal agreement indicating that all participants have agreed to a permanent cooperative relationship
- Board resolutions, documented in the official minutes of each participant, that indicate support of an ongoing cooperative relationship
- Written policies and procedures that support shared operations or a well documented description of how operations will be coordinated permanently
- A fee structure showing how the costs of maintaining the project will be assumed by the partners after the grant year has ended
- A dedicated staffing plan indicating which staff member or members, in each government, will have direct responsibility for maintaining this cooperative records program
- Special Note: Applicants for Shared Services grants should note that General Municipal Law Section 119-O states that municipal corporations and districts have the power to enter into agreements, including shared services agreements, with each other but that the maximum term of such agreements cannot exceed five years, unless another law otherwise provides for a longer term. Also, applicants for Shared Services arrangements for the storage of records in any form are required, by the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law Sect. 57.31, to obtain the consent of the Commissioner of Education for each cooperating member that is storing in records in a facility that it itself does not maintain. Contact the State Archives for further information.
Why Shared Services Grants?
Shared services projects have many advantages for local governments:
- Permanent Solution: A shared services arrangement provides each participant a permanent solution to a records management problem. Often when a local government tries to solve a problem on its own, the problem tends to recur because the government does not have the resources to maintain what had been accomplished with grant funding.
- Network of Support: A shared services arrangement will provide each participant with a network of support for maintaining their records management program.
- Economies of Scale: Shared services grants will allow applicants to do more with less. For example, such a grant application and cooperative arrangement will enable cooperating governments to purchase in bulk and lower the costs.
- More Likely to Be Funded: Shared services grants are an LGRMIF priority for funding. In the 2013-14 grant cycle the State Archives will set aside 30% of all available funds for shared services grants. The Archives has projected that 58% of all shared services applications will be funded, a much higher rate than individual grants.
- More Money: Shared services applicants may request up to $150,000, whereas individual applicants may request only $75,000.
How are Shared Services Project Organized?
One local government must act as a lead applicant for the project and the grant must be submitted under the lead applicant’s name. The lead applicant will act as the fiscal agent for the grant, managing all funds and filing all reports and paperwork. Beyond this requirement participants may organize the cooperative arrangement anyway they choose. There are many models of cooperation.
One organization is hierarchical, that is a larger unit of local government providing services for smaller units. For example, a county may choose to set up a shared services arrangement with all the towns in the county or a town may wish to do the same for all the villages in the town.
Participants can also enter an arrangement as equals. For example, a group of 7 towns or 10 school districts all equally sharing in the work and benefits of maintaining the shared services arrangement. And different local government types can enter into an arrangement for example, a town, village, and school district can apply together for a shared services grant.
What Kinds of Shared Services Projects Can be Funded?
Almost any shared services project you can imagine is eligible for funding if it meets the basic criteria of including two or more local governments and proves the establishment of a permanent cooperative arrangement to carry out an archives or records management function. Projects can be funded in any of the seven LGRMIF grant categories and can receive funding over multiple years to implement the project fully. Some examples follow, organized by grant categories.
Document Conversion and Access
Example 1: A county can implement a web-based electronic document management system and allow its component towns to use the system remotely. Grant funds can pay for the implementation of the system (hardware, software, training) and the conversion of town records into digital images for storage and retrieval in the system.
Example 2: A BOCES can establish a program for its component school districts where it creates microfilm backups of both paper and digital records every year and provides an environmentally stable offsite storage area for the microfilm.
Example 1: A county can refurbish an old warehouse for storage of inactive records and not only store its own records there but also those of other local governments within the county, such as towns, villages, and school districts. The county can provide these services for free or charge a fee per box to help with maintenance costs.
Example 2: A group of towns can purchase records management software to track their stored inactive records even if they still use their own storage facilities. One town can host the software and charge a small fee to each town for annual maintenance and upgrades to the system.
Example: A County Disaster Management Coordinator can establish an electronic storage vault that would allow local governments within the county to back up their vital electronic records at an offsite facility. The Coordinator can also work with the governments on establishing disaster plans.
Example 1: Many smaller local governments face challenges with the expenses of preserving and providing access to their historical records. Often they don’t have the facilities and equipment to store and provide access to their collections properly. A shared services arrangement is a perfect solution in these situations. One local government can set up a climate controlled storage area with the appropriate supplies and equipment, along with a research room for the public. In this way, all the records are properly stored and preserved and the public need only visit one facility to conduct research on one county or area.
Example 2: A group of local governments can establish a website and hire an archivist to create finding aids to all their historical documents and upload these to the website. Also, some or all of the historical records can be scanned and indexed and made available on the website. One government can host and maintain the site for the benefit of all.
Are There Any Current Examples of Shared Services Arrangements?
There are many successful examples of local governments coming together to form shared services arrangements as a solution to common records management issues. Many of these were established before the term “shared services” became popular and the Archives established a shared services grant type. Below are some examples from across the state.
The Town of Hamburg in western New York established a records center which it shares with the Village of Hamburg, the Village of Blasdell, and Hamburg Center School District. Each participant signed an agreement with the town outlining all procedures. Using LGRMIF grant funds, the participants purchased records management software to track their records and each has remote access to the software. Town personnel retrieve the records when needed. A committee consisting of representatives of each participating local government meets periodically to work out any disagreements or problems. The town provides these services at no cost.
The Digital Towpath developed an ECM called the DTC-ERMS that provides a secure repository for the retention of electronic records and automated disposal of obsolete records for hundreds of local governments across the state. In addition, the DTC-ERMS provides local governments that with retrieval and reporting functions that improve service to the public and guarantee the authenticity and integrity of the records. It provides additional safeguards for confidential or sensitive information through a folder-level access permissions system, customizable by each local government. The DTC-ERMS is integrated with the existing DTP user interface that has been shown to be easy to use for those with little technical training through over a decade of use for access to other DTP services. The platform itself, maintenance of the hardware and software components of the system, and ongoing user support are provided by the Digital Towpath Cooperative.
Putnam County offers records storage to all Putnam County towns for a small fee. This fee includes retrieval and delivery of records when needed and the costs of disposing of the records when its retention period expires. Every town in the county but one takes advantage of these services.
Nassau BOCES, using funds from a 2011-2012 shared services grant, scanned and indexed records from several of their component school districts and incorporated them into a shared electronic content management system. The districts have secure remote access to their records via the web and the BOCES maintains the system.
Shared Services grants provide the most efficient means for New York State local governments to find a permanent solution to their records management problem. The New York State Archives encourages local governments to explore this option before applying for a LGRMIF grant.
For further information or assistance contact the State Archives at:
Telephone: (518) 474-6926