County to Revise Staff Travel Fund Allocation After Years of ‘Small Amount Disputes’ | New


Kings County will review the way it manages staff travel, making the process “smoother” and less complicated, the supervisory board decided on Tuesday.

Finance department director Jim Erb said department heads have frequently called for the process to be changed, often getting into long disputes over small values ​​associated with travel expenses.

“I noticed when I first got here that there were a lot of disputes over small amounts, documents that had not been returned, outstanding claims and the staff was spending a lot of time on this.” , Erb said. “What I did for this policy was just to make it smoother, a bit simpler, and eliminate some processes that I didn’t think were adding any value. “

While the county will continue to ensure staff don’t abuse the system and misuse funds, Erb said travel to the county was not the luxury people might think. Staff are often inconvenienced by travel to the county, often needing to find daycare or other accommodation, he said.

One of the main changes is greater flexibility for department heads and the finance department in approving travel and allocating funds.

Previously, departments had to present their board-approved travel budget along with the annual budget, and if those funds were exhausted for the year, any travel request had to be denied by the department, Erb said, even though they had funds in other parts. of their budget.

With the change in process, departments will be able to reallocate money from other parts of their internal budgets to accommodate travel as needed.

The Finance Department was also unable to approve travel requests with accommodation costs above 200%, double the rate for General Service Administration. Erb said that while this rate generally covers accommodation, in some cases the accommodation that would be most efficient is slightly more expensive.

For example, he said a few staff members have requested travel to a conference in Monterey. Due to the impacts on accommodation rates caused by the pandemic, he said the congress hotel rate was higher than the GSA rate, but that it would be best if staff stayed there to network and access. other benefits of the conference.

The ministry will now be able to approve budgets that exceed the GSA rate by 50% under qualifying circumstances.

When the county needs to be reimbursed by staff who receive travel funds but must return them for some reason, such as a trip cancellation, the cost will now be deducted from their paycheck after a certain trial period to recover them. unsuccessful fund.

Finance will now only have to directly approve travel for those requesting a cash advance instead of a per diem reimbursement. All other travel will be approved by the respective personnel department.

Other business

Council approved a contract with Bedrock Engineering for the surveying services required for work on more than 15 miles of road in the county. Public Works Director Dominic Tyburski said construction will begin in the next two weeks and end in about two months.

Supervisor Richard Valle attended the in-person meeting for the first time since September 2020. He said he had been working remotely for many months and attended mandatory board and committee meetings virtually.

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