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Can a private business request the Township’s entire electronic tax roll?

December 2019

A variety of private companies now submit these requests to townships throughout the state to, in-part, aggregate data to re-sell to their private customers. These companies often suggest “easy” ways to upload the electronic information hoping a township will not charge them a fee.

Township can recoup expenses associated with having electronic public records available by adopting an “Enhanced Access Policy.” The Enhanced Access to Public Records Act, Act 462 of 1996, MCL 15.441 et seq. (“Enhanced Access Act”) allows a township to create an Enhanced Access Policy enabling it to charge reasonable fees for the immediate availability of electronic records. A township can charge reasonable fees under the Enhanced Access Act to recoup the operating expenses a township incurs by making electronic public records available. See 15.443. Authorized operating expenses under the Enhanced Access Act can include employee time and the costs of computer equipment, software, and services as long as the expenses are related to making a public record available electronically. See MCL 15.442(c).

Unlike the Freedom of Information Act, the Enhanced Access to Public Records Act does not put specific caps on how much a township can charge for providing electronic public records other than a township having to charge reasonable fees. See MCL 15.442(g). The Enhanced Access Act allows townships to determine reasonable fees using their own methods. All a township needs to do to charge fees under the Enhanced Access Act is adopt a resolution implementing an Enhanced Access Policy and a fee schedule.

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