The Franklin County Commission has updated its employee per diem and travel reimbursement formula, but not without questions from at least two other elected officials.
The new formula raises the ceiling on the per diem rate for travel and meal expenses that will now be based on what areas to which the employees are traveling.
The commission order adopted Tuesday sets the mileage reimbursement rate at $0.545 per mile.
Meals, incidentals and lodging shall be the per diem rates established by the federal government annually on a per city basis.
The schedule can be found under travel at www.gsa.gov.
The consensus of the commission was the website will allow per diem rates to be higher if the employee’s business involved travel to areas where meals and lodging are more expensive.
County Counselor Mark Vincent gave the example of it being more expensive to eat and stay in Washington, D.C., as opposed to Washington, Mo.
The new formula, based on the website, gives employees a basic flat rate for the day for meals as opposed to specific amounts listed for each meal of the day or other incidentals.
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson explained many times it is hard to stay within the confines of the restrictive piecemeal limits.
“There are times you may have to spend $20 on a taxicab,” Hinson said. “You shouldn’t have to skip a meal to cover that. Plus, it’s hard sometimes to eat breakfast for $11.”
County Assessor Tom Copeland questioned the new system and told the commission he had just received the new forms on Monday and had no idea what his office was supposed to do with them.
Copeland asked if by using the new website formula employees would still have to submit receipts.
At first the commissioners were unclear and said the new formula covered all meals and incidentals under the blanket per day amount.
This brought County Auditor Tammy Vemmer to the floor who said no matter what the new policy stated, individual receipts would be required for accountability.
“Just because you go to the website, look up a city and it says $50 you don’t get it automatically,” Vemmer said. “You can only get reimbursed for the amount you spend, not the whole amount the website says. You are still going to need receipts.”
Vincent added the county personnel policy still requires employees to turn in receipts so the new per diem system will not eliminate the requirement.
Copeland told the commissioners he would like to see all county employees have a training session on the new forms and system.
“There was no explanation of this at all,” Copeland said. “I need an explanation more than just turn it in. You guys tell us. We need to know before we send people out. “
A year ago, meals and incidental reimbursements while on official business for the county were set at $54 per day.
Last June, the commission unanimously increased the county lodging and reimbursement rates from $125 to $150 per night, including all applicable taxes.
According to the commission order, in the event lodging was greater than $150 plus tax, the person desiring the lodging had to obtain advance approval from at least one commissioner.
With the new website formula, some per diem rates may be lower than the former $54 per day and in some cases, especially out of state travel, the rates are higher.
For example, the website lists the meals and incidental per diem rate for Lake Ozark and Columbia at $51 per day. The meal and per diem rate for Washington, D.C., is $69 per day.