Managing Records: General Retention and Disposition Schedule

General Schedule: Introduction

Changes in Retention

Introduction

Scope of the Schedule

Records Not Covered by This Schedule

Policy and Procedures for Agency Use of the General Schedule

Sources of Additional Information and Assistance

 

INTRODUCTION

Records are a basic tool of government administration.  They provide information for planning and decision making, and they are the foundation for government accountability.  Records retention and disposition are subject to direct legal requirements.  This General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York State Government Records contains guidelines for complying with legal, fiscal, and administrative requirements for records retention and provides legal authorization to dispose of common records on a regularly scheduled basis.1 It replaces earlier general schedules issued by the State Archives.  These previous general schedules should no longer be used to govern the disposition of records.

The purposes of the schedule are to

  • provide agencies with uniform guidelines for the retention and disposition of common administrative, fiscal, and personnel records
  • ensure that agencies retain these records as long as needed for internal administration, and to meet legal, audit, and other state and federal requirements  
  • promote the cost-effective management of records
  • provide agencies with legal authorization to dispose of obsolete records covered by the schedule on a regularly scheduled basis after minimum retention periods have been met.

The schedule was prepared by the State Archives.  It has been reviewed and approved by representatives of the Attorney General and the State Comptroller and authorized for use by the State Archives pursuant to the provisions of Section 57.05, Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.

 

SCOPE OF THE SCHEDULE

This schedule provides retention and disposition authorizations for records commonly created and maintained by state agencies to support administrative, personnel, and fiscal activities.  For the purposes of this schedule, state agency means any department, division, board, bureau, office, council, commission, authority, public benefit corporation having statewide responsibility, or a separate unit of the executive branch of state government created or established by law or executive order, but shall not include the Executive Chamber.

The schedule covers 216 records series.  It is organized into 21 separate sections, each of which covers the records created or used to carry out a specific function.  Each section begins with a short definition of the function and a listing of pertinent control agencies for the function.

Please note that many of the items in this schedule are new or revised from previous editions of the general schedule.  New and revised items are indicated by an asterisk (*) preceding the item number.  Some items that appeared in previous editions of the general schedule have been deleted or combined into current schedule items.  The Numerical Index at the end of this schedule contains cross-references showing past items that have been deleted or the current items into which they have been combined.

The schedule applies to records regardless of the format or media in which they exist, including computer-generated electronic records.  According to Section 57.05 of Arts and Cultural Affairs Law

Records means "all books, papers, maps, photographs, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any agency of the state or by the legislature or the judiciary in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities, or because of the information contained therein."

Under this definition, electronic records, microfilm, and sound and video recordings are included within the meaning of "records."

The Arts and Cultural Affairs Law and State Archives regulations (8 NYCRR Part 188) exclude the following materials from the definition of records:

Library or museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of blank forms do not constitute records under this definition.

Agency staff, with assistance from the agency Records Management Officer, should use sound judgment and apply consistent criteria when deciding whether recorded information constitutes records.  A consistent approach to defining records ensures that agencies create or capture adequate documentation of their programs and operations for ongoing administrative purposes and helps to meet legal and audit requirements.  Some examples of information that may be excluded from the definition of records include

  • temporary drafts or personal notes that were not circulated, reviewed, or used to make decisions or complete transactions
  • extra copies of documents that were created or distributed solely for reference purposes
  • temporary files used solely to change the arrangement or format of electronic records
  • electronic versions of documents, transactions, or reports, when the record is retained on paper or microfilm to provide evidence or for legal or audit purposes
  • conversely, extra copies of correspondence, reports, and printouts when the record is retained in electronic form to provide evidence or for legal or audit purposes
  • copies of files or extracts of databases created solely to transfer data between systems.

Decisions about which material constitutes a record should be documented in agency policies and procedures.  The agency Records Management Officer and State Archives staff can provide advice and assistance in distinguishing records from non-record material.

 

RECORDS NOT COVERED BY THIS SCHEDULE

This schedule does not authorize disposition of the types of records listed below. 

  • Records unique to an agency.  This general schedule authorizes disposition of records that are common to most or all agencies.  Records created or maintained by agencies that concern specific or unique agency responsibilities, missions or functions are not included in this schedule.  Instead, agencies should develop agency-specific retention schedules for such records.  State Archives staff can advise and assist in preparing such records retention and disposition schedules.
  • Records that are included in this schedule but are also approved for disposition by agency-specific schedules.  When an agency-specific schedule covers records that are also included in this general schedule, the agency-specific schedule takes precedence in authorizing records disposition.  However, an agency may choose to cancel such alternative schedules by notifying the State Archives, so that applicable general schedule items can then be used to guide and authorize records disposition.
  • Records created or maintained by control and service agencies that are used to carry out or document governmentwide approval, control, audit, or oversight responsibilities, or to provide centralized services to other agencies.  These control and service agencies are identified in the introductions to each major section of the schedule or in the Records Not Covered section of a schedule item.
  • Records being used for audits or legal actions.  Records being used for audits or legal actions must be kept until the audit is satisfied or the legal action ends, even if their minimum retention period has passed.
  • Original records that are microfilmed, scanned for storage on a digital imaging system, or are otherwise migrated to other media before the minimum retention period has passed.  If an agency wishes to retain records on microfilm, as digital images, or on alternate media in lieu of the originals, the agency Records Management Officer must submit a separate records disposition request to the State Archives before destroying original records.  Review and approval of the request ensures that the original records will not be needed for legal, audit, or historical purposes and that the newer media versions will meet all necessary retention needs.
  • Records that are subject to specific state or federal retention requirements longer than the retention periods authorized in this schedule.  Agencies must make certain that the retention periods in this schedule are sufficient to meet applicable audit, reporting, or records retention requirements for any programs that are subject to state or federal government audits or oversight.  If longer retention periods are needed to meet state or federal requirements, then agencies must submit separate records disposition requests for such records.

 

POLICY AND PROCEDURES FOR AGENCY USE OF THE GENERAL SCHEDULE

State agencies may not dispose of any records without disposition authorization from the State Archives consistent with provisions of Section 57.05 of Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.  The State Archives issues this general schedule to authorize the disposition of records common to some or all agencies after the indicated minimum retention period.  An agency may use a general schedule issued by the State Archives for any applicable records in its custody by notifying the State Archives of its intention to use the schedule and by retaining the records at least as long as the minimum retention periods established in this schedule.  Use of the general schedule eliminates the need for an agency to request separate authorizations to dispose of records covered by the schedule.

Agencies may use any or all of the authorizations in this schedule to dispose of records, provided that the agency Records Management Officer first notifies the State Archives in writing of the intent to use the schedule.  Following this notification, records may be disposed on a continuing basis, provided the minimum retention period has been met.  No further notification is needed by those agencies which have already notified the State Archives of their intent to use previous editions of this general schedule.  Agencies may discontinue use of the schedule at any time, but the Records Management Officer should notify the State Archives of the discontinuance.  Information on whether an agency has adopted the general schedule can be obtained from the State Archives or the agency Records Management Officer.

Specific or temporary situations in an agency may create the need for retention periods that exceed the minimum retention periods in this schedule.  Agencies are not required to destroy records at the end of the retention period, and they are not required to inform the State Archives if they intend to keep records longer.  However, if agencies intend to retain records longer than the minimum retention periods as a regular business practice, they should document this intent in written internal procedures.  This will provide documentation of normal practice for Freedom of Information Law requests, for legal actions such as discovery motions, or to justify continued storage of records in the State Records Center.  Agencies may submit separate Records Disposition Requests (RDRs) to the State Archives for those series that they wish to retain longer than the retention periods in this schedule, but they are not required to do so unless those lengthier retention periods are required by specific state or federal retention requirements which are often found in statutes or regulations.

Agencies have considerable flexibility in applying the schedule to their specific needs, as long as records are kept at least as long as the minimum retention set forth in this schedule.  Agencies should review the title, description of the records series, and justification to help determine whether an item applies to a particular series of records.  If you are not certain whether the schedule applies to a specific group of records or if you need assistance with records not covered by this schedule, please contact your agency Records Management Officer or State Archives staff for advice and assistance.

Before using general schedule items to guide the disposition of records, program unit staff should contact their agency Records Management Officer to make certain that the schedule has been adopted and that applicable items are being used by the agency.  In some cases, agencies have prepared their own plans for records that are also covered by general schedule items.  In such cases, agency plans approved by the State Archives take precedence over the general schedule items.  In other cases, it is possible that the agency has determined to retain records longer then the indicated minimum retention periods.  Thus, program unit staff should contact their agency Records Management Officer to verify that records can be disposed after the indicated minimum retention periods.

This schedule will remain in effect until replaced, withdrawn, or superseded by the Attorney General, the State Comptroller, or the State Archives.  In the event of a change in the retention or disposition of records listed in this general schedule, the State Archives will notify all agency Records Management Officers.

 

SOURCES OF ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE

Each agency has a designated Records Management Officer, who coordinates the agency's records management program and serves as the primary contact for agency staff seeking information on adoption and use of general schedules.  The Records Management Officer is responsible for agency-wide records management planning, program development, training, and technical assistance, including records inventorying and scheduling.  Agency staff should contact their Records Management Officer for advice on use of this schedule.  Most agencies also have an Internal Controls Officer who may be able to review the adequacy of policies and procedures for documenting administrative operations.  The agency Public Records Access Officer, who is responsible for implementing agency programs to comply with the Freedom of Information and Personal Privacy Protection Laws, can provide advice on public access questions.

State Archives staff, working in conjunction with the agency Records Management Officer, assist agencies with developing or improving records access, storage and retrieval systems, assessing the feasibility of microfilming or imaging records, managing electronic records, and implementing retention and disposition schedules.  The State Archives also provides training and publications for state agency personnel on a variety of records management topics.  State Archives staff can assist you in learning about these and other services and in coordinating their delivery to your agency.

For additional assistance, contact your agency Records Management Officer, or contact the State Archives’ Government Records Services at: Room 9A47 Cultural Education Center, Albany, New York 12230; telephone (518) 474-6926; or by e-mail at: recmgmt@mail.nysed.gov.


1. The retention and disposition of state records is governed by Subdivision 11, Section 57.05 Arts and Cultural Affairs Law and 8 NYCRR Part 188.  State agencies may not destroy or otherwise dispose of any records unless such disposition is authorized by the State Archives, acting on behalf of the Commissioner of Education and in cooperation with the State Comptroller and the Attorney General.  Under 8 NYCRR 188.10, the State Archives may issue general records retention and disposition schedules to authorize disposition of records common to some or all agencies.

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