You are here
This revised Records Retention and Disposition Schedule indicates the minimum length of time that officials of Cities, Towns, Villages and Fire Districts must retain their records before they may be disposed of legally. It is a revised edition of Records Retention and Disposition Schedule MU-1, originally issued in 1988, and revised since then. It has been prepared and issued by the State Archives and Records Administration (SARA), 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 MU-1 (1988) 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Previous Schedules Superseded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 MU-1 supersedes and replaces all Records Retention and Disposition Schedules previously issued by SARA for use by cities, towns, villages and fire districts: 4-P-1, 4-P-1A, 4-P-1B, 11-City-1, 12-CP-1, 19-TC-1, 20-Lib-1, 23-H-2, and 24-CSP-2. The consent of the Commissioner of Education to use these schedules is withdrawn, and they may not be used to dispose of records. The governing body must adopt Records Retention and Disposition Schedule MU-1 in order to dispose of any records.
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 SARA 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, SARA 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 SARA Information Leaflet 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 SARA Information Leaflet No. 50, Appraisal of Local Government Records for Historical Value. SARA 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 SARA, 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 MU-1 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 SARA Information Leaflet No. 36, Intrinsic Value of Local Government Archival Records.
Local officials desiring to dispose of any records created before 1910 should telephone or write SARA, to obtain disposition request forms. This requirement also applies to the disposition of original records predating 1910 which have been microfilmed. SARA will review each request and advise the local government on retention or disposition of the records.
Records Not on Schedule MU-1
This Schedule covers the vast majority of all records of cities, towns, villages and fire districts. For any record not listed, the Records Management Officer, or the custodian of the record, should contact SARA to determine if it is indeed covered by this Schedule and if a legal minimum retention period has been established. If not, SARA 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 MU-1 is issued containing an item covering the record in question and providing a minimum legal retention period for it.
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 SARA's 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 Municipal 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 (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 or Domestic Relations 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 SARA's Government Records Services. For more information, contact SARA or the Director's Office, Vital Records Section, New York State Department of Health, PO Box 2602, Albany, NY 12220-2602 (518-474-3055).
Records of New York City
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), 31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007 (212-788-8571). Contact that office for more information if you represent an agency, unit or other part of the corporate entity of New York City, including its boroughs. Remember that all other local governments located in New York City, including counties, school districts and public benefit corporations, use retention schedules issued by SARA.