February 28th, 2024

Less travel by city staff will balance reimbursement hike

By MEDICINE HAT NEWS on February 9, 2023.

https://www.medicinehatnews.com@MedicineHatNews

City Hall will “substantially” increase the rates at which it reimburses employees who travel on city business, but plans to spend about the same overall amount as less travel in general is predicted post-pandemic.

Coun. Andy McGrogan raised the issue before it was approved at Monday night’s council meeting, stating that updating the 14-year-old rates was needed.

However, considering the 2023 and 2024 departmental budgets are set, he feared the increase could eat into the general staff training budget after years of limited opportunity.

“I support an increase but I’m concerned about less travel and less training post pandemic,” he said. “I don’t think we’re at a stage to forego training.”

The city spent about $25,000 per year for travel among its 800-person workforce to attend conferences, take part in regional meetings, or pursue training courses out of town before 2020, said corporate services managing director Dennis Egert.

“We had reduced travel during the pandemic, and there are still a lot of options to continue meetings online,” said Egert. “In some cases it’s more valuable to have in-person interactions. They will be evaluated and approved before they happen.”

The previous rates, established in 2009, provided meal allowances of $10.50 for breakfast, $15.75 for lunch and $26.25 for dinner.

That will now move the Canada Revenue Agency suggested rates of $21.90, $22.15, and $54.40, respectively, including tax.

The amount for incidentals increased from $10.50 to the CRA suggest rate of $17.50 in total.

The city will also retain a policy of paying $50 to employees who arrange to stay with out-of-town relatives or make other private overnight arrangements while travelling on city business.

At committee meeting last month, Chair Coun. Robert Dumanowski, said the practice may seem counter-intuitive, but it gives incentive to employees to avoid hotel bills that are likely three times higher and would be paid by the city.

The policy was approved by an 8-0 vote Monday and is now in effect.

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