Changes to Fees Under Michigan’s New FOIA Statute

Kacie Kefgen

By Kacie Kefgen, MASB Assistant Director of Labor Relations and Legal Services

DashBoard, May 6, 2015

Last year, Michigan’s Legislature passed a set of updates to our state’s Freedom of Information Act (House Bill 4001). These updates become effective on July 1, 2015, and school districts will need to make some changes to their current practices in order to be in compliance with the new requirements.

One of these significant changes is how public bodies, including schools, may charge fees for access to public records.

In order for a school district to be eligible to charge a fee for public records, there are a number of things it must do, including establishing procedures and guidelines that it will use to comply with FOIA, as well as provide a summary of that document that is accessible to the public.

If the district meets the requirements above, it may charge a fee limited to: actual mailing costs; the incremental cost of duplication; the cost of search, examination and review; and the deletion and separation of exempt from nonexempt information.

There are a number of limitations on how fees may be calculated. The total fee charged to may not exceed the sum of:

  • Labor costs incurred in receiving and fulfilling a request. The charges may not be more than the hourly wage of the lowest-paid employee capable of fulfilling that particular request. These labor costs must be itemized.
  • If the district must contract out the job of reviewing records to separate exempt and nonexempt information, it may not charge more than six times the state minimum wage for that work.
  • The actual and “most reasonably economical costs” of digital or electronic media provided in lieu of paper records. The requestor may also stipulate that records be provided in an electronic, rather than paper, format if a school district has the technological capacity to do so.
  • For paper records, a school district may not charge more than 10 cents per sheet of paper and must use double-sided printing if it costs less and is available.

Under some circumstances, the first $20 in fees must be waived when the requestor is indigent and receiving public assistance, or is a nonprofit organization that carries out certain activities under the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 or the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals With Mental Illness Act.

A school district may require a deposit from the requestor if the estimated cost to provide the requested information exceeds $50. This deposit must be based on a good-faith calculation and cannot exceed one-half of the total estimated fee.

This is merely a summary of the changes to the fee rules coming on July 1. For details, please consult the statute and seek guidance from your retained legal counsel as your district updates its FOIA policies. MASB is also offering a webinar to guide districts in FOIA compliance on Thursday, May 21; register here.

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