Managing Records: Identifying Records: Indexing

Preliminary Master List of Terms for Indexing Municipal Minutes

Anyone considering indexing minutes should develop a master list of terms before beginning to index. This master list contains the standard vocabulary that you will use in the index, and it is important to have a standardized vocabulary so that you always index the same subject by using the same term. Using standardized terms will also improve searches by directing users to one term instead of many terms. A master list of terms also includes cross-references directing users from non-standard terms to standard terms. This feature minimizes useless searches by directing users to the right term each time.

No matter what indexing approach you take, maintaining and using standardized terms will be useful to both the indexer and the users of the minutes. If you develop an index in database form, you will use the standardized terms when you enter data into this system. If you decide to use free-text searching software (which search for character strings in electronic versions of your minutes), you will use the standardized terms while writing the minutes. By conscientiously using your standard set of terms as you write, you can be sure you will be searching for the right word when you use free-text searching to find information in your minutes.

A master list of terms for an index consists of several authority lists:

  1. The subject heading list should include main and secondary subject terms that reflect the activities of your government or agency and the topics before it. Within this list, you should include formal names for any personnel positions, committees and boards, government properties, geographical features in the region (such a names of bridges, highways, roads), businesses, organizations, and government agencies.

    The subject list should also include See and See also references, which ensure that the indexer can remain consistent and that the users can always find the information they need. These references work in two different ways. See references: A user might want to look up information related to finance by looking up "Finance" in the master list. But since "Finance" is not a standard term in this master list, the word is followed by the note "See Fiscal," which indicates that "Fiscal" is the official term that the searcher or indexer must use. See also references: A user might look up "Planning and Zoning" and discover a note to "See also Urban Renewal." This means that "Planning and Zoning" is still a standard indexing term, but that the user might also find useful information under the related term "Urban Renewal."
  2. The master list should include a list of actions before the board. Actions, which are explained below, are useful for two reasons. First, they help to isolate important discussions within the minutes. For example, someone reading and indexing the minutes will know that whenever an appointment is being made that this is an important action and should be indexed. Second, actions are another useful way for users to search for information. In an index kept in a database, a user can easily produce a list of all resolutions or all local laws, which are two separate types of actions. If using a text searching tool, you could achieve the same effect by consistently identifying resolutions in the text of your minutes with the word "Resolution."
  3. The master list should also include a list of departments or units within the government, noting the authorized name and any standard abbreviation used in the index or minutes. Many local governments find it useful to identify the department within the government that is most closely related to any action before the board. For the same reasons, state agencies may find it useful to develop lists of work units. In this way, any department can retrieve a list of board topics related to its own work. There is no list of departments or units included in this preliminary master list of terms, since this is an objective list that is easy to develop.

To help local governments develop their individual master list of terms, the State Archives has drafted a preliminary master list of terms for use by cities, towns, and villages. This list represents those subjects that are frequent concerns of municipalities. You should use this list as a starting place and add headings that you decide you need and eliminate subjects that are of no use to you. Occasionally, you may decide to use a different official term that will be more familiar to the users of your minutes. You will need to add the names of committees, boards, local businesses, organizations, and properties as well. Nevertheless, the list can be of great value to you—not only for the headings included, but also because it shows you how to incorporate additional subjects, secondary subjects and cross-references into your master list.

This preliminary list master of terms consists of three sections:

  1. Standardized terms for actions before a local government's board.
  2. & 3. Main and secondary subject headings.

1. Actions

You can make your index more useful by maintaining information on the type of actions that take place during the course of a meeting. Tracking actions can provide another way for people to search for information and can be a helpful way for indexers to identify what information in the minutes is important enough to index.

Below are some suggested actions, along with descriptions of when to use each. Use "Disapproval" for any motion that is not approved by the board. For all other actions, assume that the action has been approved or received by the board. To make the index as useful as possible, be sure to use the most specific terms possible whenever you have a choice between two actions. As with any part of this master list of terms, you should modify this list to suit your own needs.

Appointment. Use for official appointments of people to government positions.

Bond resolution. Use for any approved bond resolution, if you decide you need to track these separately.

Complaint. Use for any complaints received, whether received via discussion or correspondence.

Correspondence. Use for any cases where the board receives or sends a letter, including petitions from the public but not including complaints.

Disapproval. Use for any motion that is declined, rescinded, or not approved, if you decide to index these actions.

Discussion. Use for any cases that are merely discussions of a topic, ending in no formal decision.

Executive session. Use for cases where the board goes into executive session. In such cases, you can provide only minimal information on the subject related to the action.

Local law. Use for a local law, the highest form of local government legislation.

Order. Use for motions where the board is directing departments or officers of the local government to carry out a certain activity.

Ordinance. Use for any ordinance, which is special local legislation on a subject specifically delegated to local governments by the State Legislature.

Other action. Use for any actions that do not fit any of the descriptions of the other actions on this list; this is the "miscellaneous" category for actions.

Public hearing. Use for any formal public hearing.

Report. Use for any reports presented to the board by departments or committees.

Resolution. Use for those cases where the board formally expresses a particular opinion or takes a specific action.

Tabled. Use for situations where the board postponed making a decision on an issue.

2. & 3. Main and Secondary Subjects

The following is a suggested list of main subject headings that includes secondary subjects as well. Please note that many common secondary subjects do not appear in this list, but are included in the list of common ones above. You should integrate whatever secondary subjects from above into this list. Also, note that many but not all possible positions in municipal government are included in this list, always followed by "(Position)" after the title. You will need to add any other positions into this list, as well as other necessary subject terms.


ADA. See Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Adult Homes. See Assisted Living

Affirmative Action

Agreements. See Contracts and Agreements or Personnel

AIDS. See Diseases

Airport. See also Public Transportation

Ambulance Service. See Public Safety

American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Animal Control

Rabies Outbreaks

Animal Control Officer (Position)

Annual Report. See specific function

Anticipation Notes. See Fiscal

Aquifers. See Water Supply

Architectural Plans. See Facilities Planning

Architectural Review. See Planning and Zoning

Assessment. See Tax, Real Property

Assessor (Position)

Assisted Living. See Housing

Associations. See Conferences or specific topic

Attorney (Position)

Auctions. See Sale, Surplus Property and Tax, Sales

Audits, Performance. See specific function

Audits. See Fiscal

Authorities. See name of specific authority


BAN (Bond Anticipation Notes). See Fiscal

Banking. See Fiscal

Beaches. See Parks and Recreation

Benefits. See Personnel

Bequests. See Commemoration

Bicentennial. See Celebrations

Bids. See subject of bid

Bike Trails. See Parks and Recreation


Bills. See Fiscal

Bingo. See Games of Chance

Blasting Permits. See Permits

Boards. See specific function or name of board


Bond Anticipation Notes (BAN). See Fiscal

Bonds and Notes. See Fiscal

Bonds, Performance

Bonds, Surety

Bookkeeper (Position)

Bridges. See also Highways

Budgets. See Fiscal

Building Code


Building Inspection

Building Permits. See Permits

Buildings. See Public Property or specific name of property

Burial Permits. See Permits

Bus Service. See also Public Transportation

Cable Television

Capital Construction.

Secondary subject: Specific project or function

Carnivals. See also Celebrations or Permits





CETA. See Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (U.S.)

Chamber of Commerce

Churches and Synagogues

Circuses. See Permits

City Hall. See Public Property

City Manager (Position)

Civil Defense. See Public Safety

Civil Service. See Personnel

Civil Service Employees Association. See Labor Unions

Claims (Bills). See Fiscal Clerk (Position)

Clubs. See specific name of club

Code Enforcement Officer (Position)

Codes. See Building Codes or specific topic

Collective Bargaining. See Labor Unions



Commissioner of Public Works. (Position)

Commissions. See specific topic or name of commission

Committees. See specific topic or name of committee

Communications Towers

Community Center. See Public Property and Parks and Recreation

Community Development. See also Urban Renewal

Compensation. See Personnel

Complaints. See subject of complaint

Comprehensive Employment & Training Act (CETA)

Comptroller (Position)


Internet Services

Condolences. See Commemorations

Conference of Mayors. See Conferences


Association of Towns of the State of New York
Conference of Mayors
Training (use for non-annual training events)


Environmental Impact Statement
Flood Plain
Pollution Control
Soil and Water Conservation

Constable (Position)

Construction. See Public Property, Highways, and Subdivisions

Consultants. See specific function of consultation

Contracts and Agreements. See specific function

Copier. See Office Operations

Corporation Counsel (Position)

County Sales Tax. See Tax, Sales Court

Crime. See Public Safety

Culverts. See Highways

Curbing and Gutters. See Highways

DARE. See Drug Abuse Programs

Dedications. See Commemorations

Deeds. See Public Property

Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS (DEC). See also Conservation

Department of Transportation, NYS (DOT)

Departments. See specific position or function

Developments. See Subdivision and Urban Renewal

Disabilities. See Permits and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Disaster Preparedness


Lyme Disease

Dismissals. See Personnel

Disposal Plant. See Solid Waste Management

Districts. See specific name or function

Docks. See Marina

Dog Control Officer. See Animal Control Officer

Dogs. See Animal Control

Donations. See specific subject of donation

Drainage. See Highways and Conservation

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

Drug Abuse Programs

Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE). See Drug Abuse Programs

Dump. See Solid Waste Management

DWI. See Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

E-911. See Public Safety


Secondary subject: Specific name of property

Economic Development

Elderly. See Senior Citizens

Election Inspector (Position)


Polling Places

Electrical Code. See Building Code

Emergencies. See Public Safety

Emergency Services. See also Public Safety

Employee Agreements. See Labor Unions

Employee Handbook. See Personnel

Engineer (Position)

Environment. See Conservation

Equalization Rate. See Tax, Real Property

Equipment. See Office Operations


Excavations. See Public Property, Subdivisions, and Urban Renewal

Exemptions. See Tax, Real Property

Expenditures. See Fiscal

Facilities Planning

Architectural Plans

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Finance. See Fiscal

Fire Code. See Building Code

Fire District. See Public Safety

Fire Insurance. See Insurance

Fireworks. See Permits


Bond Anticipation Notes (BAN)
Bonds and Notes
Consulting Services
General Fund
Petty Cash
Revenue Anticipation Notes (RANs)
Revenue Sharing
Tax Anticipation Notes (TANs)
Transfer of Funds

Fixed Assets. See Public Property

Flood Plains. See Conservation

Fluoridation. See Water Supply

Forests. See Conservation and Permits

Freedom of Information Law, NYS (FOIL)

Open Meetings Law
Public Records Access

Games of Chance


Garbage. See Solid Waste Management

General Fund. See Fiscal

Gifts and Memorials. See Commemorations

Golf Course. See Parks and Recreation

Grants. See specific subject of grant

Grievance. See Labor Unions and Taxes, Real Property

Group Homes. See Assisted Living

Halfway Homes. See Assisted Living

Handicapped. See Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Hazardous Waste. See Solid Waste Management

Health Insurance. See Insurance

Health Officer (Position)

Highway Superintendent (Position)

Highways. See also Bridges, Drainage, Easements, Traffic Control

Brush and Loose Leaves
Culverts Curbing and Gutters
Damage Reports and Claims
Designation as municipal road
Parking Regulations
Snow Removal
Street Surfacing (Use for grading, resurfacing, potholes)

Historian (Position)

Historic Preservation

Holidays. See Personnel

Hospitals Specific name, e.g. Empire Municipal Hospital

Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Housing. See also Urban Renewal

Elderly Housing
Group Homes
Halfway Homes
Nursing Homes

Hydrants. See Highways

Incinerator. See Solid Waste Management

Injuries. See Accidents

Insurance. See also Personnel

Workers Compensation

Interns. See Personnel

Investments. See Fiscal


Junkyards. See Permits


Justice (Position)

Justice Court

Kennels. See Animal Control

Labor Department, NYS

Labor Unions

Collective Bargaining
Employee Agreements
Specific name of Union, e.g., CSEA

Land Conservancies

Landfill. See Solid Waste Management

Leases. See specific subject of lease

Legal Opinions. See specific topic of opinion

Legislation. See specific topic of legislation

Libraries. See specific name of library

Licenses. See Permits, Animal Control, and Marriage Licenses

Lighting. See Highway

Lighting District

Litigation. See specific topic or litigant

Loans. See Fiscal

Lyme Disease. See Diseases

Maintenance and Improvements. See specific topic


Marriage Licenses

Master Plan. See Planning and Zoning

Mayor (Position)

Medical Insurance. See Insurance

Memorials. See Commemoration

Microfilm. See Records Management

Mileage. See Personnel

Mobile Homes

Negotiations. See Labor Unions

New York State Conference of Mayors and Other Municipal Officials. See Conferences


911. See Public Safety

Nurse (Position)

Nursing Homes. See Assisted Living

NY State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). See Planning and Zoning

Office Operations. See also Computers

Storage Equipment

Open Meeting Law (NY). See Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)

Organizations. See specific name of organization

Parade. See Celebrations

Parking Permits. See Permits

Parking Regulations. See Highways

Parks and Recreation. See Public Property, for maintenance and improvements

Athletic Fields
Bike Trails
Community Center
Golf Courses
Park Districts
Senior Citizens
Tennis Courts
Youth Services

Payroll. See Fiscal

Pedestrians. See Traffic Control

Performance Bonds. See Bonds, Performance

Permits. See also Building Codes

Block Party
Commercial Hauler
Handicap Parking
Special Use. See Planning and Zoning


Changes in Title
Civil Service
Deferred Compensation
Drug and Alcohol Testing Program
Employee Benefits
Employee Handbook
Insurance. See Insurance
Interns and Volunteers
Leaves of Absence
Meal Allowance
Mileage Allowance
Performance Appraisal
Reimbursement of Expenses
Salary and Wages
Workers' Compensation

Petitions. See subject of petition

Petty Cash. See Fiscal

Planning and Zoning. See also Urban Renewal

Architectural Review
Commercial Development
Master Plan
Residential Development
Special Use
State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR)

Playgrounds. See Parks and Recreation

Plumbing Code. See Building Code

Plumbing Permits. See Permits

Police. See Public Safety

Policies and Procedures. See also specific topic

Polling Place. See Elections

Pollution Control. See Conservation

Pool. See Parks and Recreation

Postal Service

Proclamations. See Commemorations

Professional Services. See specific subject of the services

Property Taxes. See Taxes, Real Property

Property. See Public Property

Public Housing. See also Assisted Living

Public Property

Building and Construction
Building Sites
Community Center
Equipment and Furnishings
Facilities Planning
Fixed Asset Management
Janitorial and Maintenance Services
Rental of property
Specific name of property, e.g. Empire Town Hall, Washington Park

Public Relations

Public Safety

Ambulance Service
Civil Defense
Fire District
Noise Control
Rescue Squad

Public Transportation. See also Airport, Bus Service, and Railroad

Public Works. See specific function


Pump Stations. See Water Supply

Purchases. See subject of purchase

Rabies. See Animal Control and Diseases

Railroad. See also Public Transportation

Real Property. See Taxes, Real Property

Receiver of Taxes (Position). See Tax Collector

Records Access. See Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)

Records Access Officer (Position)

Records Management

Records Disposition
Records Storage

Records Management Officer (Position)

Recreation. See Parks and Recreation

Recycling. See Solid Waste Management

Referendum. See topic of referendum

Refuse. See Solid Waste Management

Registrar of Vital Statistics (Position)

Rental. See specific subject of rental

Repairs. See Public Property or name of specific property

Reports. See subject of report

Rescue Squad. See Public Safety

Reservoir. See Water Supply

Resignations. See Personnel

Retirement. See Personnel

Revaluation. See Taxes, Real Property

Revenue Anticipation Notes (RANs). See Fiscal

Revenue Sharing. See Fiscal

Right of Way. See Easement

Roads. See Highways

Rules and Regulations. See Policy & Procedures

Salary and Wages. See Personnel

Sale, Surplus Property


Sales Tax. See Taxes, Sales

Sanitary Code. See Building Code

Sanitary Landfill. See Solid Waste Management

School District. See specific name

Senior Citizens. See also Assisted Living and Parks and Recreation

Meals on Wheels

Separations. See Personnel

SEQR. See NY State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR)


Improvements and Repairs
Outside Sewer User Agreements
Professional Services (e.g. Engineering Services, Sewer Trunk Line Repair)
Sewage Treatment
Sewer Districts
Sewer Lines

Sick Leave. See Personnel

Sidewalks. See Highways

Signs and Billboards. See Billboards and Traffic Control

Snow and Ice Removal. See Highways


Social Services

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (SPCA). See Animal Control

Soil and Water Conservation District. See also Conservation

Solid Waste Management

Hazardous Waste
Solid Waste Management Plan
Toxic Waste
Transfer Station

Special Use Permits. See Planning and Zoning

Speed Limits. See Traffic Control

State Agency, Law, or Program. See specific name

State Comptroller, NYS

Street Lighting. See Highways

Street Surfacing. See Highways

Streets. See Highways

Subdivisions. See also Planning and Zoning

Special Use Permits. See Planning and Zoning
Specific name of subdivision

Summer Recreation Program. See Parks and Recreation

Supervisor (Position)

Surety Bonds. See Bonds, Surety

Surplus Equipment. See Office Equipment

Surplus Property. See Sale, Surplus Property

Swimming Pools. See Parks and Recreation

Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN). See Fiscal

Tax Certiorari. See Assessor

Tax Collector (Position)

Tax, Real Property

Equalization Rates

Tax Receiver (Position). See Tax Collector

Tax, Sales Auction

Terminations. See Personnel

Towers. See Communications Towers

Toxic Wastes. See Solid Waste Management

Traffic Control. See also Highways

Speed Limits

Trailer Park. See Mobile Home

Transfer of Funds. See Fiscal

Transportation. See Highways or Traffic Control

Trash. See Solid Waste Management


Treasurer (Position)

Tributes. See Commemorations

Tuberculosis. See Diseases

Unemployment Insurance. See Insurance

Uniforms. See specific department

Union or Employee Association. See specific name of union or employee association

Unions. See Labor Unions

Urban Renewal. See also Community Development

Secondary subject: Specific name of development or project

Utilities. See specific name or function

Vacation Leave. See Personnel

Vaccinations. See Animal Control

Vandalism. See Public Safety

Variances. See Planning and Zoning

Vehicle and Traffic Code

Vehicles. See Traffic Control and Public Property

Vending. See Permits

Veterans. See also Tax, Real Property, Commendations, and Personnel

Vital Statistics

Volunteer Programs

Volunteers. See Personnel

Voting. See Elections

Wages. See Personnel

Waste Management. See Solid Waste Management

Wastewater Treatment Plant

Water Supply

Maintenance and Improvements
Master Water Plan
Professional Services, (e.g. Engineering Services, Water Main Repair)
Pump Stations
Water Billings
Water Districts
Water Filtration Plant
Water Mains
Water Treatment
Waterline Repairs

Watersheds. See Water Supply and Conservation

Welfare. See Social Services

Wells. See Water Supply

Wetlands. See Conservation and Planning and Zoning

Workers Compensation. See Personnel and Insurance

Youth Services. See Parks and Recreation

Zoning. See Planning and Zoning

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