MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Office of Open Government today announced in a news release the department’s adjusted public records request fee schedule after a recent analysis of actual costs. The office recommended other authorities do the same, especially if new copiers have been leased or purchased since the creation of a fee schedule.
Hard copy fees were reduced from 15 cents to 1.35 cents per black and white page and 6.32 cents per color page. The analysis was based on DOJ’s contract with the copier company and the price of printer paper. Location fees were also updated, as well as fees for electronic records.
According to the release, there has been a noticeable and concerning increase of inquiries pertaining to high fees being charged for records and the fee advisory was issued to notify interested parties about permissible fee practices under the law.
Wisconsin’s public records law states an authority may only charge a fee for the actual, necessary, and direct costs of four specific tasks: (1) reproduction and transcription; (2) photographing and photographic processing; (3) locating; and (4) mailing or shipping. An authority may not charge for the time it takes to redact records, and an authority may not make a profit on its response to a public records request. As a general rule, the rate for an actual, necessary, and direct charge for staff time should be based on the pay rate of the lowest paid employee capable of performing the task. An authority also may require prepayment for the costs associated with responding to a public records request if the total amount exceeds $5.00.
The release also reiterated the circumstances under which a location fee can be charged and recommended authorities consider waiving fees if a request is in the interest of the public.