The City of Portland collected more than $800,000 to provide public records in the last fiscal year, more than doubling the total collected two years earlier.
The City Attorney's Office provided new data after WW requested public records showing how much the city had collected from requesters since December 2015, when Portland adopted a new record tracking system called GovQA.
The new numbers still reflect that the total fees collected by the city have been steadily rising for the past three years, and at a faster rate than the number of requests have increased.
The city says these fees do not cover the "actual cost" of producing public records.
"It is important to note that the fees for public records do not cover the actual cost of responding to the requests," says Jenifer Johnston, a senior deputy city attorney, in a letter sharing the new analysis with WW. "The City does not make a profit on charging for public records requests. The fees would be much higher if the City charged fees to truly cover the actual costs of providing the records as the City is permitted to do under the Oregon Public Records Law."
The numbers the city initially provided in response to WW's records request did not include comprehensive totals because GovQA does not track every transaction done by the city. GovQA also records some requests that do not involve public records.
After running a new analysis that accounts for all of the public records transactions city-wide, the city says it collected $804,476 in FY 17-18. In FY 15-16, Portland only took in $311,520 from people who requested public records.
The city attributes some of that increase to a jump in the total number of requests. But the number of request did not grow as fast as the fees. The number of requests increased by 76 percent, while the total fees charged increased by 158 percent.
Johnston says that the number of requests for FY 15-16 may be under-reported because it did not adopt the GovQA system until December 2015.
The city also points to an increase in the automatic fees charged by the Portland Police Bureau, which increased the fee to provide many types of records from $10 to $30 in 2016. Because the vast majority of records requests are submitted to the Police Bureau, this fee structure likely increased the total amount of money collected.