Public funds shall be spent to pay actual and necessary travel expenses of County employees, Department/Agency Head/General Manager, Boards and Commissions and Elected Officials only in accordance with this policy. In the event expenses are incurred which exceed those listed in this policy, the cost borne or reimbursed will be limited to the costs that fall within this policy. No reimbursement for travel shall be paid from public funds for County employees, Department/Agency Head/General Manager, Boards and Commissions and Elected Officials except as authorized by this policy, and in conformance with adopted budgets. This policy shall also be subordinate to any other provisions of law pertaining to travel. This policy applies to any travel claim, notwithstanding the source of funding, including the management benefit allowance and textbook and tuition funds except as may be specifically contradicted otherwise in an applicable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Nothing within this policy restricts the Auditor Controller Treasurer Tax Collector Office from exercising its authority under State Statutes.
- Travel Reimbursement Criteria
- Types of occurrences for which expenses may be paid.
Travel and meal expenses may be paid only when they are incurred for the purposes of conducting official County business, representing the county in an official capacity, or for obtaining training or information directly beneficial to departmental operations.
The actual cost of travel should be reasonable, utilizing the least expensive methods available as determined by the appropriate Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee, given the particular circumstances involved in each trip.
By Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee approving the travel and meal reimbursement, it is assumed that the travel expenses incurred are considered reasonable and necessary by the Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee.
- Expenses that can be paid or reimbursed.
- Transportation expenses.
Actual and necessary transportation expenses consist of the most economical mode and class of transportation reasonably consistent with scheduling needs and cargo space requirements, using the most direct and time-efficient route, based on a determination by the appropriate Department/ Agency Head/General Manager or designee, given the particular circumstances involved in each trip. In addition, government or group rates shall be used when available. Personal vehicle mileage costs will be reimbursed based on the provisions of the current applicable salary resolution. A personal automobile mileage claim form must be completed and personal vehicle mileage costs will be reimbursed
Actual and necessary lodging expenses may be paid or reimbursed when travel on official County business reasonably requires an overnight stay. If such lodging is in connection with a conference, lodging expenses must not exceed the group rate published by the conference sponsor for the meeting in question if such rates are available at the time of booking. If the group rate is not available or for expenses not associated with a conference, government rates must be requested, when available. Lodging rates that are equal to or less than government rates are assumed to be reasonable and reimbursable for purposes of this policy. In the event that government rates are not available at a given time or in a given area, lodging rates that do not exceed the median retail price for lodging for that area shall be considered reasonable and reimbursable. By Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee approving the lodging reimbursement, it is assumed that the lodging expenses incurred are considered reasonable and necessary.
Actual and necessary meal expenses, including gratuities, may be paid or reimbursed when traveling on official County business outside the geographical boundaries of Sonoma County, and should not exceed a maximum of $90 each day per person. Receipts will be required to document meal expenses under this provision. This amount will be adjusted each year, effective on the date the Board of Supervisors approves the County budget, to reflect changes in the cost of living for Sonoma County in accordance with the Capital Personal Income (CPI) provided by the State Department of Finance by May 1 for calculation of the Prop 4 annual adjustment. The annual adjustment will be based on this area whether travel is within the area or not. The County Auditor-Controller Treasurer Tax Collector will maintain a record of any annual change in this amount and shall, each year notify the public entities for which this policy is adopted, by posting the new limitations on the County intranet and/or internet.
At the discretion of the Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee, departments may elect to reimburse for meals utilizing an amount equal to or lesser than the Federal per diem rate. If a per diem rate is utilized, no receipts will be required for meal purchases.
If traveling in a group, an individual may cover the cost of meals for a group and claim reimbursement for the full amount. In this case, the number of people for whom the meal was purchased must be noted, along with their names, titles and a statement of the business purpose.
Expenses for alcoholic beverages will not be paid or reimbursed by the County.
Actual tolls, ground transportation, parking expenses, communications (fax, telephone, postage and copying/printing), and laundry costs for lengthy trips may be paid or reimbursed if considered reasonable and necessary and approved by the Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee.
- Other expenses.
Other actual and necessary expenses not listed in this policy may be paid for or reimbursed if considered reasonable and necessary and approved by the Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee.
- Expense report content and submission requirements.
All expense reimbursement requests must be submitted on an authorization for travel and expenses report form (expense reports). Expense reports must identify how the expenses relate to the conduct of County business and document that the expense in question met the requirements of this policy. Expense reports must be submitted within 60 days of return and must be accompanied by receipts documenting each expense. In some cases, receipts may not be readily available, such as for tips, parking meters, and bridge toll. In these limited instances, the employee may submit a substitute receipt or form, signed by the employee, certifying that the receipt was not available to submit. This substitute receipt or form will serve as the official receipt documenting the expense. Employees should make every attempt to obtain receipts for all travel expenses claimed.
The above criteria apply for ALL travel reimbursement. Special requirements or exceptions are as follow:
- County employees.
County employees will obtain prior approval, on a County travel authorization form, from the Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee for travel and meal reimbursements under this policy. Upon approval by Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee, employees will be reimbursed for expenses incurred.
- Department/Agency Head/General Manager – appointed or elected.
No prior approval is required. Department/Agency Head/General Manager can approve their own travel reimbursement claims within amounts included in their own travel budget.
- Members of Boards/Commissions.
Members of Boards/Commissions can approve their own travel reimbursement claims within amounts included in their own travel budget. However, there is an additional reporting requirement for members of boards and commissions. At the next regular board or commission meeting at which the member is present, following any public expenditure on behalf of that member or expense for which a member is seeking reimbursement, the member claiming reimbursement shall briefly report on the conference or meeting(s) attended. Some Advisory Commissions may require additional approvals before incurring travel expenses.
- Additional Meal Reimbursement Criteria for In County Meals/Snacks and Drinks
- Reimbursement for meal expenses of Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee, and Members of Boards/Commissions while conducting business within the County.
Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee, and members of Boards/Commissions shall be reimbursed for meal expenses incurred while promoting the interests of Sonoma County within their particular areas of responsibility. Such expenses may include costs for persons who are not County employees but who are in a position to significantly affect the interests of the County.
Claims for such expenses shall include receipts supporting the reimbursement requested. In these cases, additional documentation must be provided with the request for payment as noted below under additional documentation related to in county purchases of food/drinks/snacks. By signing off as claimant on the request for reimbursement, the official is swearing to the facts justifying the expense under the provisions of this policy.
When multiple meals are claimed for a single day, the total amount reimbursed must fall within the amount approved by the limits established by this policy.
Reimbursement for meals/snacks for meetings of employee workgroup/advisory committees or events.
With Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee approval, meals or snacks, purchased by the department, for staff, trainers, speakers, and subject matter experts required to attend trainings, meetings and events, which result in staff working during meal time, may be paid or reimbursed by the County. In the case when staff is working after normal work hours, and it is more practical to provide meals than to have staff leave and return, meals may be paid or reimbursed by the County. The need to schedule meetings during mealtime should be necessary and extraordinary. In these cases, additional documentation must be provided with the request for payment as noted below under additional documentation related to in county purchases of food/drinks/snacks.
With Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee approval, the cost for meals or snacks can be reimbursed when they are provided to advisory committees, oversight groups, volunteers, or others with direct influence or involvement with County programs or services. In these cases, additional documentation must be provided with the request for payment as noted below under additional documentation related to in county purchases of food/drinks/snacks.
- Meals during emergency situations. With Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee approval, when employees and/or volunteers are required to work continually before, during, and after normal meal periods to respond to emergencies, the County may provide those employees with a snack or a meal, provided the amounts claimed are within the limitations of this policy. In these cases, a written explanation must be provided detailing the emergency situation, and additional documentation must be provided as noted below under additional documentation related to in county purchases of food/drinks/snacks.
- Additional documentation related to in county purchases of food/drinks/snacks. Every attempt should be made to provide as much documentation as possible when in county food/drinks/snacks are purchased for employees or others. At a minimum, a written explanation must be provided detailing the business purpose and the number of people these items were provided for. By Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee approving the claim for reimbursement, it is assumed that the expenses incurred are considered reasonable and necessary.
- Out of State Travel Criteria
Out of state travel, lodging and meal expenses incurred while on County business outside of the State of California shall be reimbursed on an actual cost basis. Such travel requests must state the purpose, dates, duration, and destination of the proposed trip. The position and name of the employee must be included. The estimated cost and funding sources must be identified. Requests must be justified with respect to a demonstrated need and expected benefit to the County.
- Department/Agency Head/General Manager or Designee approval authority.
Department/Agency Head/General Manager or designee are authorized to approve the first two out-of-state trips in a fiscal year and actual cost reimbursements for travel, lodging, and meals for an employee (including the department head).
- County Administrator approval required.
Approval by the County Administrator is required for the third out-of-state trip in a fiscal year (including the department head).
- Board of Supervisors’ approval required.
Approval of the Board of Supervisors is required for more than three out-of-state trips in a fiscal year (including the department head). Any requests for Board of Supervisors’ approval requires a recommendation from the County Administrator.
- Specific Sheriff Department Exemption. In certain job assignments, Sheriff Department employees are required to travel out-of-state as a regular part of their duties. In these unique and special circumstances, the Sheriff shall have the authority to approve in a fiscal year three or more out-of-state trips per employee and the associated cost reimbursements for travel, lodging, and meals. Examples falling under this exception include the transportation of prisoners out of state (extraditions), significant criminal or civil investigations that require out of state travel, Court orders requiring department employees to testify out of state, and employee background investigations that require out of state travel to complete.
Authorization and Guidelines for Travel and Expense (PDF: 369 kB)
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