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This revised Records Retention and Disposition Schedule indicates the minimum length of time that county officials must retain their records before they may be disposed of legally. It is a revised edition of Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2, originally issued in 1990, and revised since then. It has been prepared and issued by the State Archives, State Education Department, pursuant to Section 57.25 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, and Part 185, Title 8 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York.
The purposes of this Schedule are to:
(1) ensure that records are retained as long as needed for administrative, legal and fiscal purposes;
(2) ensure that state and federal record retention requirements are met;
(3) ensure that record series with enduring historical and other research value are identified and retained permanently; and
(4) encourage and facilitate the systematic disposal of unneeded records.
Adoption and Use of the Schedule
Before records disposition takes place, this Schedule must be formally adopted by resolution of the governing body. Adoption procedures are explained in the Instructions. If your governing body has already adopted Schedule CO-2 (1990) by resolution, then you do not need to adopt the Schedule again in order to use this revised edition, even though there are major changes between this edition and the previous edition of the Schedule. Once the Schedule has been adopted, local officials may proceed to dispose of records that have met the retention periods specified on the Schedule.
Previous Schedules Superseded
Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2 supersedes and replaces Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-1, previously issued by the State Archives for use by counties. The consent of the Commissioner of Education to use this schedule is withdrawn, and it may not be used to dispose of records. The governing body must adopt Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2in order to dispose of any records. Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CC-1 (issued in 1988 for use by community colleges) is also no longer valid. Counties with single sponsorship of a community college should use this edition of Schedule CO-2 instead.
Archival records are records that governments must keep permanently to meet fiscal, legal, or administrative needs of the government or which the government retains because they contain historically significant information. Records do not have to be old to be archival; local officials create and use archival records daily in offices. What makes a record worthy of permanent retention and special management is the continuing importance of the information it contains.
When the State Archives has determined that a record series has enduring historical or other research significance for all local governments, the series has been given a permanent designation on the Schedule. Other record series which may have historical or research significance in some local governments but not in others have an appraisal note to encourage local officials to evaluate the records to determine their importance before disposition. However, the State Archives cannot identify all record series with historical or research significance for individual local governments. Knowledge of people, places, or events in each community and the unique circumstances of each government will determine which records are significant. Local officials will need to appraise records with nonpermanent retention periods for potential research or historical value before destroying them.
The usefulness of archival records depends on the government's ability to preserve them, retrieve the information they contain, and make that information available to researchers. Further information on managing archival records is provided in the State Archives' Publication No. 40, Fundamentals of Managing Local Government Archival Records.
Appraising Records for Historical or Research Significance
A local government record has historical or other research importance if it provides significant evidence of how the government functions and/or if it provides significant information about people, places or events that involve the government. Since each community has its own unique history, the importance or value of a record series may vary from local government to local government.
Because local governments are continually involved in the lives of people, their records may contain a tremendous amount of information about the people who live there, the buildings and sites within their borders, and the important time periods or significant events that affected the people of the region. Government records can reveal information about what people owned; about attitudes, values and concerns of the citizens; about how the construction of a new highway led to the end of a neighborhood, or about how a community reacted to a military base closing. The records may contain information about the people, places or events themselves or about the decisions made in relation to them. This information can be very valuable to staff, researchers, and the public, but only if the information itself is significant. The records must contain enough information to adequately document the people, places, or events recorded. The significance of the records will depend on:
- When the records were created: records created during a time of momentous change, which are scarce or which cover a long period of time tend to be more significant.
- What kind of information the records contain: records that contain more in-depth information are more likely to have enduring value.
- Who created the records: records that reflect an employee's perspective or individual point of view may be more significant.
- What other records exist: if the information in the records exists in other records within the local government or elsewhere in the state or country, then the records are less likely to be significant.
- The unique history of the local government or community: records created during important time periods or events can provide clues to how the events affected the development of the government and the community it serves.
The historical or other research importance of records will vary from local government to local government and from region to region. The people, places, or events in each community, and the unique circumstances of each government, determine which records are significant. Further information on identifying historically significant records is provided in the State Archives' Publication No. 50, Appraisal of Local Government Records for Historical Value. State Archives' staff can also advise and assist local officials who are appraising records for potential long-term research value.
Records Created Before 1910
Disposition of records created before 1910 requires specific written approval from the State Archives, as required by Section 185.6 (c) of 8NYCRR, the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. Certain records which would normally be disposable under Schedule CO-2 may need to be kept if created before 1910. Often these records have continuing historical or research value because:
(1) Other documentation no longer exists. Many earlier records were destroyed through natural disaster or through destruction by public officials prior to the passage of the first state statute in 1911 requiring the consent of the Commissioner of Education to the disposition of local public records;
(2) The volume and type of information contained in records have changed since the beginning of the 20th century. Older records often have more detailed and historically significant information than those produced today;
(3) Early records sometimes have intrinsic value beyond the information they contain. "Intrinsic value" refers to qualities, such as value for exhibits, association with significant events, and aesthetic value, which records may possess beyond merely the information they contain. Further information on identifying records with intrinsic value is provided in the State Archives' Publication No. 36, Intrinsic Value of Local Government Archival Records.
Local officials desiring to dispose of any records created before 1910 should telephone or write the State Archives, to obtain disposition request forms. This requirement also applies to the disposition of original records predating 1910 which have been microfilmed. The State Archives will review each request and advise the local government on retention or disposition of the records.
Records Not Listed on Schedule CO-2
This Schedule covers the vast majority of all records of counties. For any record not listed, the Records Management Officer, or the custodian of the record, should contact the State Archives to determine if it is indeed covered by this Schedule and if a legal minimum retention period has been established. If not, the State Archives will consult with appropriate state and local officials and users of local government records and advise the local government on the disposition of the records. If the record is not covered by an item on this Schedule, it must be retained until a revised edition of or addendum to Schedule CO-2 is issued containing an item covering the record in question and providing a minimum legal retention period for it.
Conversely, the State Archives has no legal authority to require local governments to create records where no records exist, even if the records in question are listed on this Schedule. Although there may be laws, regulations or other requirements that certain records must be created, those requirements do not originate from the State Archives. Instead, the purpose of Schedule CO-2 is to authorize the disposition of records which local governments maintain. The mere fact that a record is identified on this Schedule should not be interpreted as a requirement that the record must be created.
The disposition of canceled obligations (including bonds and notes) is covered by Section 63.10 of the Local Finance Law and Part 55 of Title 2 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York. A leaflet on this subject is available from the State Archives' Government Records Services. Questions about the destruction procedure should be addressed to the Office of State Comptroller, Division of Legal Services, 110 State Street, Albany, NY 12236; phone, (518) 474-5586.
Court Records in County Offices
Disposition of court records is governed by the state Office of Court Administration (OCA). Disposition schedules listing court records held by municipalities are available from OCA. For information, contact Records Office, Office of Court Administration, 25 Beaver Street, 8th floor, New York, NY 10004; phone, (212) 428-2877.
Official Birth, Death and Marriage Records
Records of births, deaths, and marriages (dating after 1880) generated pursuant to Article 41 of the Public Health Law are considered state government records even though they are generated by or filed in local government offices. Disposition of state government records is governed by the provisions of Section 57.05 (11) of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. Disposition under this Law is also coordinated by the State Archives' Government Records Services. For more information, contact the State Archives or the Director's Office, Vital Records Section, New York State Department of Health, PO Box 2602, Albany, NY 12220-2602; phone, (518) 474-3055.
Records of Counties Located in New York City
While retention periods for records of New York City offices and boroughs are established by the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS), remember that all other local governments located in New York City, including counties, school districts and public benefit corporations, use retention schedules issued by the State Archives for records other than court records.
Records of a County District Attorney
Disposition of these records is presently covered by Section 89.2 of the Judiciary Law. Application must be made to the appropriate Judicial Department of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court.
Records of a County Board of Elections
A schedule for disposition of records of county boards of elections was issued in 1996 by the State Archives and the State Board of Elections. This covers only election records of county boards; general administrative records are listed on Schedule CO-2. Copies are available from the State Archives' Government Records Services or from the State Board of Elections.
County Motor Vehicles Records Found in County Clerks' Offices
These records are state government records. Disposition of state government records is governed by the provisions of Section 57.05 (11) of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. Disposition under this Law are also coordinated by the State Archives' Government Records Services. For more information, contact the State Archives and the Records Management Officer, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Swan Street Building, ESP, Albany, NY 12228.
Records of Community Colleges Sponsored by More Than One County
Community colleges where more than one county are its "local sponsors" are considered autonomous local governments and their records are covered by Schedule MI-1, issued by and available from the State Archives. Community colleges with single county sponsorship are considered to be part of the sponsoring county, and must use Schedule CO-2. Schedule CC-1 (1988) is now obsolete and can not be used by community colleges!