June 19, 1996

In re: Jo Coffman/City of Shepherdsville


This matter comes to the Attorney General as an appeal by Jo Coffman in connection with her request to the city of Shepherdsville for a copy of the 1996-1997 municipal budget.

In a note, dated May 22, 1996, Ms. Coffman requested a copy of “the 1996-1997 budget.”

Neva Ward, the city of Shepherdsville's Records Custodian, advised Ms. Coffman, in a letter dated May 22, 1996, that the budget for the fiscal year 1996-1997 does not yet exist. She said the mayor's preliminary recommendations to the city council concerning the fiscal year budget for 1996-1997 are exempt from public disclosure pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(k). Presumably Ms. Ward is referring to the exception to public inspection set forth in KRS 61.878(1)(j) stating that records constituting preliminary recommendations and preliminary memoranda in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated or recommended may be withheld from public inspection.

Ms. Coffman's letter of appeal was received by this office on May 28, 1996. In that letter she referred in part to giving the council the budget and her desire to examine the budget.

In response to Ms. Coffman's appeal to this office a letter was received from Mark E. Edison, Esq., City Attorney for the city of Shepherdsville. In his letter, dated June 4, 1996, Mr. Edison said the city held a meeting on May 20, 1996, for the partial purpose of receiving the mayor's budget message. He also said that, “No budget (KRS 91A.010(1)) has been prepared or submitted to the City council for consideration.” Mr. Edison's letter contained the following paragraph:

The City Council members of Shepherdsville were provided with line item projections of income and expenses which were prepared by the City Clerk/Treasurer, with the Mayor's input, to advise the City Council of the required expenditures, the proposed expenditures and the projected income of the current fiscal year and the projected income for the upcoming fiscal year. These figures are preliminary and for information purposes in assisting the Council and Mayor in formulating a budget as required by KRS 91A.030. The actual figures to be used will not be determined until a work session (open to the public) which was held on June 3, 1996, involving the Mayor, City Council Members and Department Heads.

In a city operating under the mayor-council form of government, such as Shepherdsville, KRS 91A.030(7) requires that the mayor submit his budget proposal together with a budget message to the council not later than thirty days prior to the beginning of the fiscal year it covers. The council subsequently adopts a budget ordinance making appropriations for the fiscal year in such sums as it finds sufficient and proper, whether greater or less than the sums recommended in the budget proposal. KRS 91A.030(8)(a).

KRS 61.878(1)(j) provides that among the public records which may be excluded from public inspection are “preliminary recommendations, and preliminary memoranda in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated or recommended.”

In OAG 84-217, copy enclosed, this office concluded that current budgets and previous budgets are both open to public inspection. Previous budgets have lost any “preliminary” quality by being closed and current budgets are “working” budgets indicative of final action. OAG 84-217, at page two. In OAG 76-551, copy enclosed, at page three, we said that where the document in question is not just a budget in the process of being formulated but is the current working budget pursuant to which expenditures are being made, it is not a preliminary document and is subject to public inspection.

This office in OAG 83-166, copy enclosed, concluded that a draft copy of a budget is exempt from mandatory public inspection as a preliminary document. It is preliminary, tentative, and merely expresses recommendations which may or may not be incorporated into the final budget document.

It is, therefore, the decision of the Attorney General that the city did not violate the Open Records Act when it refused to make available for public inspection a document containing the mayor's proposals for the city's 1996-1997 fiscal year budget as such a document is preliminary in nature and it may or may not be incorporated into the city's final budget document for the fiscal year in question.

A party aggrieved by this decision may appeal it by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882. Pursuant to KRS 61.880(3), the Attorney General shall be notified of any action filed in circuit court, but the Attorney General shall not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceeding.



Thomas R. Emerson

Assistant Attorney General


Copies of this decision

have been delivered to:

Jo Coffman

163 North Buckman

Bldg. 1, Apt. A3

Shepherdsville, KY 40165

Neva Ward

Records Custodian

City of Shepherdsville

170 Frank E. Simon Avenue

P.O. Box 400

Shepherdsville, KY 40165

Mark E. Edison, Esq.

City Attorney

City of Shepherdsville

170 Frank E. Simon Avenue

P.O. Box 400

Shepherdsville, KY 40165