Travel Expense Policy Amended

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STARKE COUNTY TRAVEL EXPENSE POLICY

AMENDED APRIL 15th, 2013

This document establishes Starke County government policy for reimbursement payments to county employees and office holders (generally “employees” herein) for expenses incurred by them while on County employment assignments away from work location.

1. Prior Authorization. All business travel must be approved in advance by the employee’s Supervisor, Department Head or responsible Elected Official.

2. Responsibility for Making Travel Arrangements. Employees approved for business travel are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.

  1. Lowest Reasonable Travel Expense. Employees and officials should minimize travel expenses, and avoid. impropriety or the appearance of impropriety. Whenever practical, employees should use a County vehicle or common carrier. Shared lodging is recommended, but not mandatory.
  2. Eligibility. Expenses that have been paid by another person or entity are ineligible for payment or reimbursement. Unless specified by federal or state grants or specified by a contract, payment or reimbursement of eligible travel expenses will be made to the employee The employee is responsible for non-business expenses. All travel expenses should occur within a reasonable time prior to and after the business event.
  3. Preauthorization. When the employee anticipates incurring extraordinary travel expenses, the expenses must be approved in advance by the commissioners. The following circumstances are extraordinary circumstances necessitating preauthorization:
    • Travel outside Indiana.
    • Costs exceeding a total of $500.00.
    • Guest or family accompanying the employee during travel outside Indiana.

Group travel exceeding six participants.

    • Mode of transportation is not the most economical.
    • Lodging rate exceeding $150 person per night.
    • Travel duration extending past 5 business days.
    • Travel funded by federal or state grants subject to guidelines in conflict with this policy.
    • Alternative travel arrangements that would save the County travel expenses. Over-night expenses for travel of less than fifty miles.

A signed document evidencing approval from the commissioners must accompany the reimbursement claim. Please contact the Commissioners well in advance to request pre-authorization.

  1. Registration Fees. Generally, a registration fee for a conference, meeting, educational event or otherwise directly related to the business travel is an allowable expense. If the registration fee includes a meal not itemized separately, then the entire registration fee will be considered for payment.
  2. Transportation. An employee may by airline, train, bus, taxi, or rental car and/or personal vehicle mileage for travel necessary in the discharge of official duties, but must select the most economical mode of transportation available. The cost to upgrade to first-class or other preferred status is not reimbursable. When two or more employees are traveling the same general route for the same general purpose, one vehicle should be driven if administratively feasible.
  3. Automobile mileage rates. Employees may claim mileage at the current IRS Standard Mileage Rate (IRS Publication 463). Mileage will be paid from the employee’s place of work or home; whichever is the lesser amount. Travel from home to work and from work to home is ineligible for reimbursement. Generally, the employee should record start and ending odometer readings; alternately on-line mapping tools, such as Map Quest, may be used to verify distances for the purpose of mileage reimbursement. In no case shall the allowable mileage exceed the actual map mileage according to the official State of Indiana Highway map.

Other transportation-related costs, with proper receipts, may be reimbursable, such as parking, tolls, shuttle, etc.

Should a more cost-effective travel arrangement be available, the County will consider reimbursement based on evidence, provided by the traveler, to support the claim.

  1. Automobile travel, parking and tolls. County employees may be reimbursed for the cost of parking and tolls when using a person vehicle or a county vehicle.
  2. Lodging. Overnight accommodation. not to exceed the single occupancy room charge, including taxes, is an allowable expense for over-night stays, but only when the travel distance exceeds fifty (50) from the Starke County Courthouse. Wherever possible, employees and officials are encouraged to stay in hotels offering government rates. The County prefers to pay conference package room rates, whenever available or standard room rates when conference package rates are not available. The County reserves the right to limit reimbursement if the room rate appears unreasonable or excessive. The costs to upgrade room status or for fees due to late check-out are not reimbursable.

11. Pre-approval required for certain lodging expenses. At the discretion of the supervisor and. the county commissioners, over-night travel is not necessarily required soled. because the mileage exceeds 50 miles; however, in order to accommodate early morning or late evening meetings, it may sometimes permissible for an employee to incur over-night travel. To be reimbursable all such sub-50 mile expenses must be pre-approved by the supervising authorities.

  1. Lodging Ineligible Expenses. The following are ineligible for county expense claims: dry cleaning, child care, pet care, personal telephone calls, television or video charges, gym or spa services, room service charges, valet services, gratuities. Services such as Internet, telephone, or fax may be with evidence supporting their use for business purposes.
  2. Lodging Receipts Required. All claims for reimbursement for lodging expenses must be supported by a receipt issued by the lodging facility. Applicable taxes are reimbursable.

]4. Meals, subsistence allowance. A “meal’ is defined as breakfast, lunch or dinner. Beverages (aside from those served at a meal), and snacks are not considered a meal and are ineligible for reimbursement. Gratuities and alcoholic beverages are also ineligible for reimbursement. Payment may be claimed for county employee only. A county employee is not entitled to a subsistence allowance if travel is 50 miles or less from the work station or the employee’s home. Beverages (aside from those served. at a meal), and snacks may be eligible for reimbursement if due to medical condition. The County may request documentation of medical condition before paying for beverages an.cl snacks.

Expenses for meals incurred when traveling are initially the responsibility of the employee. When travel extends past one calendar day. the County may reimburse actual meal receipts not co exceed $28.00 for each full day OE the travel duration. For same day travel, the subsistence allowance is as follows: Breakfast $6.50; Lunch $8.50, Dinner $13.00. Provided however, that meals included in a registration fee will be considered for payment pursuant to paragraph 6, above, and no reimbursement is allowable under this paragraph.

  1. Travel Expense Reports; Receipts. All claims for travel, except mileage, shall be filed. on forms prescribed by the Starke County Auditor. Standard receipts properly itemized and signed, or receipted invoices must be attached in support of the claim. Receipts must identify the date of purchase, the merchant’s name and address, and the total cost. Copies of cancelled checks and credit card statements may constitute proof of payment. but do not qualify as proper receipts. Claims must be supported by documentation stating the purpose far travel, such as a registration form. Claims submitted without proper documentation will be returned co the submitting department without processing. Please submit all travel expense reports and claims to the Auditor within 30 days following the business travel
  2. Ethical Considerations. A county employee may not receive, accept or retain any form of expense, lodging, transportation, meal or any other thing of value, good or service with respect to travel or conference attendance or related activities that is provided by another person, firm, company or ocher entity who is not legally obligated to do so unless such receipt, acceptance or retention is legal, ethical and does not create an appearance of impropriety.

This policy does not apply to reimbursable travel expenses of jurors or witnesses: however, if a department deems it appropriate to use this policy as guidelines for non- employee travel-related expenses, the County may pay those expenses accordingly.

Exceptions to this policy may be specified in the Indiana Code, in which case the Indiana Code provisions are controlling. However, it is the responsibility of the employee or official making the reimbursement claim to cite the relevant code section with their claim so that the Auditor’s staff can handle claims quickly and efficiently.

The Board of Commissioners has inherent authority to manage public funds of the County and therefore reserve the right to approve or deny travel expense claims for any reason not inconsistent with Indiana or Federal Law, including reasons not specifically addressed by this policy. Employees are advised to consult with their Department Head, Auditor, and the Commissioners to determine whether to request preauthorization. under paragraph 5, above.

Abuse of this policy, including falsifying expense reports, may constitute grounds of disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

APPROVED and ADOPTED as policy of the County of Starke, State of Indiana, by the Starke County Council at their regular meeting this day of April, 2012.