County To Look Into Changing Trip Stipend Rules This Thursday

Andrew Trzaska | September 11, 2012

Muskegon County is set to look into making changes on how stipends are given to employees and its elected county officials.

At Muskegon County Commission meeting, the board approved putting a proposal from the County Administrator on the agenda of a special Human Resources committee meeting this Tuesday.

Finance and Management Services Director Heath Kaplan spoke on the proposed amendment to Rule XVIII of the county’s policies, “Governing Claims for Personal Expenses Incurred in the Official Conduct of County Businesses.”

Changed to how reporting to the IRS is handled and moving toward a system where per diem funds are distributed on a per-day basis are part of the language changes.

Clarification and consistency are goals of the changes, according to Kaplan:

“It’s one single policy as much as it can be, but when it isn’t it is outlined much more clearly between staff and elected officials.”

To give employees and elected officials compensation for expenses on trips, the county government uses purchase cards, or “p-cards”. The process of solidifying and clarifying rules surrounding the use of these cards has evolved, with multiple agenda items in July and October of 2011 addressing the system. Bank of America currently assists in operation of the system.

Those using the p-cards for spending must go through a training session on how to reconcile their charges on the card before being allowed to use it.  The cards are given “to any staff member that a director or departmental elected official or court administrator deems to need it.”

County commissioners receive a $50 per diem stipend, though employees do not share that stipend.   Commissioner Alan Jager identified a gray area in the proposed rules, where full-time employee of the county who is also elected may or may not be given that same $50 per day stipend.

At Tuesday’s meeting Kaplan indicated the board’s actions that day were only to approve adding it to Thursday’s special meeting agenda, so any changes the board may deem necessary to the policy could still be made.

Commissioner John Snider stated that Tuesday’s questions and discussions appeared to indicate the board wasn’t quite ready to sign off on the matter and more questions may arise on Thursday.

Since the board approved placement of these amendments on the September 13 agenda of the special Human Resources Committee for review, what comes out of that meeting will likely be presented as a recommendation for the full board to vote on September 25.

View Thursday’s Human Resources agenda here.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst