Belhaven Board of Aldermen OKs travel policy

Published 11:17 pm Sunday, February 14, 2016

BELHAVEN — The Belhaven Board of Aldermen approved its new travel policy for town employees at its Monday meeting.

The policy was drafted in compliance with suggestions from the Office of the State Auditor, as it released its audit report on the Town of Belhaven Feb. 4. Monday night was the official approval of it.

“The Town of Belhaven (Town) does not have a written travel policy resulting in the potential for excessive spending on meals and hotels by town employees. Employees were not required to obtain approval for travel,” the audit stated. “If the Town Council does not develop a travel policy, people with access to Town credit cards may waste Town funds on travel expenditures.”

Belhaven’s town employees now have to have approval from the town manager or finance director to use government money on trips. The new policy also set in place guidelines for reimbursements of meals, lodging and mileage.

According to the policy, the town is allotting $8.20 for breakfast (in-state and out-of-state) and $10.70 for lunch (in-state and out-of-state), as well as $18.40 for in-state dinners and $20.90 for out-of-state dinner.

Town employees can be reimbursed for meals while on “overnight travel status” and may qualify for reimbursement on partial days, as well.

Guidelines for travel lodgings were set into effect as of Jan. 1, and include a $65.90 allotment for in-state lodging and $77.90 for out-of-state lodging.

When the lodging guidelines were first presented to the Board of Aldermen, Mayor Adam O’Neal expressed concerns regarding whether the guidelines would cover decent accommodations. At the time, Town Manager Woody Jarvis explained that the numbers were based on standard rates.

The current policy states that adjustments can be made and approved “to ensure reasonable accommodations are acquired at the best available price.” The policy also allots $0.54 per mile for round trips in private vehicles not exceeding 100 miles, or if there is not a town vehicle available for trips in excess of 100 miles.

At Monday’s meeting, Jarvis discussed the option of giving a town employee some of the funds up front — an option he said he felt would make the process go more smoothly.

“Then we’ll do the accounting to make sure everything was done like it was supposed to be,” Jarvis said.

Alderman Ricky Credle asked if the policy could be amended to make the term “town employee” more specific. O’Neal suggested that it be changed to “town representatives” instead.

“I can add anything to this that y’all feel is necessary,” Jarvis said in response.

Alderman Amos Wilson motioned to have the board approve the policy, and it was unanimously approved.