Section 1307 of the Right-To-Know Law requires the Office of Open Records to establish a fee structure for Commonwealth agencies and local agencies. Section 1310 of the RTKL requires the OOR to review that fee structure every other year.
Today, the OOR adopted a new Official RTKL Fee Structure which can be viewed in its entirety here.
Prior to publishing a Draft Update to the Official Fee Structure this year, the OOR prepared a review of recent appellate court cases and Final Determinations issued since the last fee review in July 2014; a comparative analysis of fees assessed by various Pennsylvania agencies; a review of fees charged by copy/printing businesses located in various cities and municipalities across the Commonwealth; and recommendations for future fee reviews. That nine-page document is available here.
On Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, the OOR published the Draft Update to the Official Fee Structure and solicited public comment on the draft update. The draft update was published on the OOR Executive Director’s blog, with notice being prominently displayed on the Fee Structure page of the OOR website. Notice was also provided to subscribers of the OOR’s email newsletter, as well as numerous times on both the OOR’s Twitter feed and the Executive Director’s Twitter feed.
Public comments were accepted through Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. The OOR received nine substantive comments on the Draft Update to the Official Fee Structure. (One comment was received on Aug. 22, 2016, and is included among the nine the OOR received.) Comments were provided by four individual requesters, one attorney, one statewide media organization, and three employees of local agencies.
Among the requesters, one said the charge of “up to $0.25” per black and white copy is too high and pointed out that Staples charges $0.085 (8.5 cents) per black and white copy. Another indicated that he is “okay” with the proposed fee structure. A third requester indicated that the proposed allowable charge for black and white copies “leaves unresolved [the] substance of [a] recent Commonwealth Court Decision on same issue.” However, that individual did not respond to a request for clarification.
The fourth requester focused on the issue of “enhanced electronic access.” Pursuant to Section 1307(e) of the RTKL, the OOR must approve user fees established for enhanced electronic access on a case-by-case basis, so this is outside the scope of the update to the Official Fee Structure. That said, the requester made excellent points which the OOR will take into consideration going forward.
The attorney said that using the phrase “up to” when setting copying fees “is meaningless” and recommended $0.10 for black and white copies and $0.15 for color copies.
The statewide media organization requested that the OOR require agencies to provide electronic copies of records by email when requested, that the OOR’s Fee Schedule should expressly state that the RTKL allows the public to use their own recording devices to make copies of public records, that the fee for color copies should be changed to “up to $0.50 per page or actual cost, whichever is less,” and that the policy should clarify that the requester has the discretion to ask for black and white copies even if the original is in color and color copies are available.
Two employees of local agencies expressed concerns which are outside the scope of the update to the Official Fee Structure, namely that (1) “an inordinate amount of time is spent running reports and data for commercial requestors” and (2) “Some RTK requests take a lot of time – I think there should be a set fee for the time spent on the RTKL and research into whether a request is public or not.” On the first point, legislation has been introduced (including Senate Bill 411) which would establish a separate fee schedule for commercial requests. The third employee of a local agency indicated that, “I am fine with the draft fee schedule.”
Based on these public comments and additional internal review, the OOR made the following changes to the Draft Update to the Official Fee Structure:
- Reduced the allowable charge for color copies from “up to $0.50” per page to “up to $0.35” per page.
- Changed the allowable charge for CD/DVD from “up to $3.00” per disc to “up to actual cost, not to exceed $3.00” per disc.
- Added text to footnote #2 clarifying that a requester may ask for black and white copies even if the original is in color and color copies are available.
- Added language, including footnote #8, clarifying that a requester may use a personal camera, such as a cellphone camera, to copy a public record.
- Made minor stylistic and grammatical changes throughout.