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Mehlville Board of Education approves 900% hike in copying costs for records


Staff Report

The Mehlville Board of Education re-cently approved a 900 percent increase in the per-page cost for copies of records re-quested under the state's Open Meetings and Records Law.

Board members voted 5-0 Sept. 30 to adopt the resolution as part of revisions to three sets of policies, including those relating to the Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law. The Sunshine Law resolution also names Patrick Wallace, director of school/community relations, the district's custodian of records.

The revisions to the district's Sunshine Law policy were made in response to changes approved by the Missouri Legis-lature and signed into law by Gov. Bob Holden earlier this year.

The revisions to the Sunshine Law cap the per-page cost for copies of records at 10 cents for a 9-inch-by-14-inch copy.

"Fees for copying public records ... shall not exceed 10 cents per page for a paper copy not larger than nine by 14 inches ...,'' the Sunshine Law states.

Approving the maximum cost that legally can be charged for copies is a 900 percent increase in the per-page cost of copies compared to the cost the Call was charged for a Sunshine Law request in June.

In response to a June 14 request by the Call for "copies of any and all memoranda, letters and/or correspondence generated by Mehlville School District personnel and Board of Education members regarding Call Newspapers since July 1, 2003,'' the district charged the newspaper $561.30. In response to a Call request to certify the costs for the search and duplication of rec-ords, Superintendent Tim Ricker wrote in a June 30 letter "that the actual cost of document search and duplication, in response to the Call's June 14, 2004, request is fair, reasonable and does not exceed the actual cost incurred by the district.''

In a breakdown of the costs accompanying Ricker's letter, the Call was charged one cent for each page copied — $2.66 for 266 pages of documents.

"Duplication rate is based on the Mehl-ville School District actual cost for copies per our copier contract,'' the cost breakdown stated.

Among the search costs included in the breakdown were:

• Ricker, four hours at $73.65 per hour, $294.60.

• Deputy Superintendent Jane Reed, half an hour at $62.78 per hour, $31.39.

• Assistant Superintendent for Finance Randy Charles, half an hour at $53.42 per hour, $26.71.

• South Area Superintendent Keith Klus-meyer, half an hour at $50.96 per hour, $25.48.

• Assistant Superintendent for Human Re-sources A.D. McClain, half an hour at $53.93 per hour, $26.97.

• Assistant Superintendent for Student Ser-vices Cindy Lynch, half an hour at $48.23 per hour, $24.12.

• Assistant Superintendent for Curricu-lum/Staff Development Connie Hurst-Bayless, half an hour at $53.93 per hour, $26.97.

• Wallace, two hours at $30.47 per hour, $60.94.

While the Sunshine Law resolution approved by the board stipulates a 10-cent per-page copying cost and the Call was charged one cent per page in June, an Oak-ville resident was charged less than one cent — .73 cents — per page for copies when he requested information last year and earlier this year from the district under the provisions of the Sunshine Law.

Dan Fowler, a former Mehlville Board of Education member who served as chairman of both the district's Citizens' Advi-sory Committee for Facilities and the Citi-zens to Protect Our Investment, was charged more than $550 for two Sunshine Law requests he made last year and nearly $375 for a Sunshine Law request he made early this year.

Fowler was charged $367.44 last Novem-ber for records relating to administrators' travel and other reimbursable expenses.

Of that amount, Fowler was charged $6.42 for 880 copies, according to information Charles provided Fowler.

"A total of 880 copies were made for you,'' Charles wrote Fowler. "The per-copy cost is $.0073. (The cost of paper is $1.88 per ream/500 sheets per ream = $.0038 per sheet. The copier costs are $.0035 per copy. The cost for all copies is 880 X $.0073 = $6.42.''

Also in November, the district charged Fowler $190.12 for a request he made for information related to cell phone usage by current and former Central Office employees.

Of that cost, Fowler again was charged .73 cents per copy, according to information Charles provided to Fowler. Fowler was charged $2.25 for 308 copies.

In January, Fowler requested information about the cost of retreats the Board of Ed-ucation conducted in June 2000 and June 2001 at Toddhall in Columbia, Ill., and the costs incurred by Board of Education mem-bers attending conventions of the Missouri School Boards Association in 2001 and 2003.

In response to his request, Fowler was charged a total of $374.66 for the information.

For copies, Fowler again was charged .73 cents per page, according to information Charles provided to Fowler. Fowler was charged 52 cents for 71 copies.

The revised Sunshine Law and the policy revision approved by the Board of Educa-tion Sept. 30 also includes a section that states: "Documents may be furnished with-out charge or at a reduced rate when the public governmental body determines that a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute to public understanding of the operations or activities of the public governmental body and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.''

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