Sent:    Tuesday, November 13, 2012 10:55 AM
Subject: RE: Reporter inquiry: FOIL and the town budget process

Hi  - -

In brief: 

            First, although agencies may accept requests made verbally, FOIL indicates that they may require that requests be made in writing.  FOIL also, states, however, that nothing in that law can serve to diminish rights of access conferred by other laws.  In this instance, §108 of the Town Law provides specific direction and states in part that that a public hearing must be conducted and that notice of the hearing "shall state...that a copy of the preliminary budget is available at the office of the town clerk where it may be inspected by any interested person during office hours."  That requirement in my view negates any requirement that a FOIL request be made or that a request be made in writing by a person who visits town hall to view or copy the preliminary budget.

            Second, the preliminary budget must be disclosed pursuant to both §108 and the
provision to which you referred, §106(4), which specifies that the town clerk must "reproduce for public distribution" copies of the preliminary budget.

            Third, while a town may provide copies of the preliminary budget free of charge, I believe that it may charge its established fee for copies.  Note that if the preliminary budget is stored electronically and can be emailed, there would be no fee. Lastly, a recent amendment to the Open Meetings Law, §103(e), states that records scheduled to be discussed during an open meeting, such as a tentative or preliminary budget, must be made available, "to the extent practicable", on an agency's website prior to the meeting during which it will be discussed.

            I hope that the foregoing is responsive to your questions.