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Virginia Freedom of Information Act Rights & Responsibilities

 

Rights & Responsibilities:

The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of

Town of Halifax, Virginia

Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.

A public record is any writing or recording -- regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording, or any other format -- that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business. All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.

The policy of FOIA states that the purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

Your FOIA Rights

  • You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both.
  • You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
  • If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA. Alternatively, you may contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

Making a Request for Records from Town of Halifax, Virginia

  • You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone. FOIA does not require that your request be in writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.

- From a practical perspective, it may be helpful to both you and the person receiving your request to put your request in writing. This allows you to create a record of your request. It also gives us a clear statement of what records you are requesting, so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request. However, we cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect to not put it in writing.

  • Your request must identify the records you are seeking with "reasonable specificity." This is a common-sense standard. It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; instead, it requires that you be specific enough so that we can identify and locate the records that you are seeking.

 

  • Your request must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to a situation where you are asking general questions about the work of Town of Halifax, Virginia, nor does it require Town of Halifax, Virginia, to create a record that does not exist.

 

  • You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by Town of Halifax, Virginia, in the regular course of business.

- For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy of those records

  • If we have questions about your request, please cooperate with staff's efforts to clarify the type of records that you are seeking, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request. Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, but we may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand what records you are seeking.

To request records from Town of Halifax, Virginia, you may direct your request to FOIA Officer Carl Espy, IV-Town Manager/Clerk. He can be reached at Post Office Box 627, 70 South Main Street, Halifax, Virginia 24558; 434-476-2343 (Office); 434-476-6344 (Fax); or by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. You may also contact the FOIA Officer with questions you have concerning requesting records from Town of Halifax, Virginia. In addition, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA.  The Council may be contacted by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.

Responsibilities of Town of Halifax, Virginia, in Responding to Your Request

  • Town of Halifax, Virginia, must respond to your request within five working days of receiving it. "Day One" is considered the day after your request is received. The 5-day period does not include weekends or holidays.

 

  • The reason behind your request for public records from Town of Halifax, Virginia, is irrelevant, and you do not have to state why you want the records before we respond to your request. FOIA does, however, allow Town of Halifax, Virginia, to require you to provide your name and legal address. Provision by you of your email address is requested.

 

  • FOIA requires that Town of Halifax, Virginia, make one of the following responses to your request within the 5-day time period:
  1. We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety. 
  2. We withhold all of the records that you have requested, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If all of the records are being withheld, we must send you a response in writing. That writing must identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records. 
  3. We provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records. We cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you with the remainder of the record. We must provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld. 
  4. We inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist (we do not have the records you want). However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for the other public body in our response to you. 
  5. If it is practically impossible for Town of Halifax, Virginia, to respond to your request within the 5-day period, we must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow us 7 additional working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.
  • If you make a request for a very large number of records, and we feel that we cannot provide the records to you within 12 working days without disrupting our other organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request. However, FOIA requires that we make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production or the records before we go to court to ask for more time.

Costs

  • A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection “F” of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.

 

  • You may have to pay for the records that you request from Town of Halifax, Virginia. FOIA allows us to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests. This would include items like staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. It cannot include general overhead costs.

 

  • If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we may require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five days that we have to respond to your request does not include the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond.

 

  • You may request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested. This will allow you to know about any costs upfront, or give you the opportunity to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.

 

  • If you owe us money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, Town of Halifax, Virginia, may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.

 

  • The current charges of Town of Halifax, Virginia, for complying with a FOIA request are listed below:

a)  Personnel time for responses to FOIA requests that require 30 minutes or less of time spent searching and copying will not be charged to you.

b)  Personnel responding to your request shall have discretion to determine if his/her individual time spent responding to a FOIA request (in excess of 30 minutes) will be charged to the requester.

c)  The time fee charged for responses shall be based upon the annualized Town pay rate, plus the total annual costs of regular Town benefits, for the particular individual(s) preparing a response to a FOIA request. The Town will divide the total of the annualized pay rate and annual benefits costs or the individual by 2,080 hours, to determine each hourly rate to be charged for responding to a FOIA request.

d)  The Town will take all reasonable precautions to keep personnel time and costs to a minimum, including using lower paid personnel capable of retrieving records to respond to a request. However, in situations where a particular individual is required to search through his/her own email and files contained on his/her individual Town computer or other device it shall not be unreasonable for that individual to retrieve the requested records and charge a FOIA response fee corresponding to his/her salary and benefits. In some cases, it may be necessary for multiple personnel to participate in responding to a FOIA request.

e)  In addition to fees for personnel time, fees charged for copying and other costs shall be as follows:

1)  Copies (8½ x 11 black & white): $.50 per page.

2)  Copies (other-color and/or sizes up to/including 11x 17): $1.00 per page.

3)  Copies (other–items in excess of 11x 17, as such items generally require specialized equipment to reproduce): $1.50 per page.

4)  A page constitutes one side of a document. A double sided document counts as two pages.

5)  Other/specialty items (including audio/video recordings): as determined by responding personnel, based on actual cost.

6)  Mail: actual cost to mail the request (if more than two ounces, otherwise no charge).

Types of Records

The following is a general description of the types of records held by Town of Halifax, Virginia:

  • Personnel records concerning employees and officials of Town of Halifax, Virginia. 
  • Records of contracts which Town of Halifax, Virginia, has entered into. 
  • Other documents of Town of Halifax, Virginia.

 

If you are unsure whether Town of Halifax, Virginia, has the record(s) you seek, please contact the FOIA Officer by using the contact information provided above.

Commonly Used Exemptions

The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Town of Halifax, Virginia, commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:    

  • Personnel records [§ 2.2-3705.1(1) of the Code of Virginia] 
  • Records subject to attorney-client privilege [§ 2.2-3705.1(2)] or attorney work product [§ 2.2-3705.1(3)]
  • Vendor proprietary information [§ 2.2-3705.1(6)] 
  • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded [§ 2.2-3705.1(12)] 
  • Other public records proposed to be withheld by Town of Halifax, Virginia, will be withheld subject to notice to the requester of the source of authority for withholding records.

 

Policy Regarding the Use of Exemptions

Town of Halifax, Virginia, will determine, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether a statutory exemption should be invoked to withhold requested records.

2017 Real Estate Tax Mailing Announcement

l Public Service Announcement:

The Town of Halifax would like to notify residents, businesses and property owners that 2017 tax bills for real estate are being mailed the week of August 28th, and, personal property and machine & tool tax notices will be mailed separately prior to November 1st with an accompanying announcement which will outline the December 5, 2017 due date both on personal property and machine & tool taxes along with a reminder to taxpayers of the real estate payment for the same deadline.

Halifax is pleased to continue offering the payment option for Real Estate and Personal Property tax bills using Paymentus Corporation, a third party automated payment service that accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and Electronic Check. This payment plan can only be accessed online or by phone using Paymentus. This system will not be set up for payments in person at the Halifax Town Hall, although cash and check payments will continue to be accepted in person. Paymentus Corporation will charge a convenience fee for each transaction (the fee covers payment handling and processing charges). Customers should be ready with the following information:

For Real Estate, the 5-digit Parcel ID number (located on your billing statement),For Personal Property, the 4-digit Tax ID number (located on your billing statement),Your Credit Card number or your Checking Account and Routing Number

To pay your bill by phone dial: 1-877-489-1674 to call a secure automated telephone payment system, powered by Paymentus Corporation.

To pay your bill online go to the Town of Halifax website http://www.townofhalifax.com, click on the “Pay Online Taxes” bar at the top and go to a secure third party website at Paymentus Corporation.

Please be reminded that the deadline for payment of total real estate tax due is Tuesday December 5, 2017. If a receipt is desired, please enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. Payments made after the due date are subject to 10% Penalty and 10% Interest Per Annum. Also any real estate or personal property taxes not paid after the 2nd notice will have a $15.00 administration fee added along with a stop being placed on your vehicle registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, incurring an additional fee of $35. If ownership of property has been transferred during the current tax year, the bill should be forwarded to the responsible party. For information about the tax assessment of property, please contact the County Commissioner of Revenue’s Office at 434-476-3314.

If you have any questions about phone or online payments, please call Halifax Town Hall at 434-476-2343.

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