Citing a "noticeable and concerning increase" in the number of inquiries about what governing bodies can charge filers of Freedom of Information Act requests, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said he was lowering his own offices rates and encouraging others to do the same.
"The OOG [Office of Open Government] has recently received inquiries pertaining to the high fees that some authorities have charged for copying records," a news release from Schimel's office said. "An authority may impose a fee for copies of a record that do not exceed the actual, necessary and direct cost of reproduction and transcription of the record, unless a fee is otherwise specifically established or authorized to be established by law."
After noticing the increase in questions, Schimel said his office did its own study to determine actual costs that account for an updated copy and servicing contract.
"DOJ’s actual cost of a single black-and-white copy, including the cost of a paper, is $0.0135," Schimel said. "The cost of a color copy is $0.0632. The OOG has accordingly adjusted DOJ’s fee schedule to account for these new costs, although DOJ very rarely charges any fees ..."
Schimel said other governmental units should follow suit.
"The OOG recommends that authorities re-evaluate their copying fees, especially if new copiers have been leased or purchased since the creation of a fee schedule," he said. "Copying fees should be based on the actual costs of the copy machine or contract, and the actual cost of paper."
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, welcomed the news in an email to council members.
"This is well below the norm among state and local offices, usually 15 to 25 cents per page," Lueders said. "Importantly, the AG's office, which has statutory authority to interpret and enforce the state's open records law, is encouraging other authorities to similarly rethink what they charge for paper copies."