Elliott Auerbach, Comptroller 244 Fair Street, 5th Floor Kingston, New York (845) 340-3529

Office of the Ulster County Comptroller
COUNTY MILEAGE REIMBURSEMENTS – WHAT DOES IT COST ULSTER COUNTY TAXPAYERS? BY THE NUMBERS

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What is a reimbursable expense for Ulster County Employees? Ulster County reimburses employees for a variety of outof-pocket expenses incurred during the course of their County employment. In 2012, Ulster County reimbursed employees a total of $269,168. These reimbursements are itemized by category in Table #1. Of the aggregate amount, $213,931, or 80%, was for mileage expenses. Why does Ulster County pay mileage reimbursements? The County compensates employees who use their personal vehicle to conduct County business. County business can include travel for conferences and seminars, miles driven to and from County meetings, as well as many of the services that are considered essential to quality of life and emergency care to the population, services which are primarily provided by the Department of Social Services (“DSS”). Employees are reimbursed by the County for the stated mileage at the allowable IRS mileage reimbursement rate on the date of travel. This rate is set at least annually by the IRS, which, during the period reviewed, was .555 cents per mile. The mileage reimbursement rate is not only related to fuel costs, but, rather, is intended to cover the costs of operating a car for business purposes. The costs considered by the IRS for the prescribed mileage rate include standard maintenance, repairs, taxes, fuel, insurance, and registration fees. Which County Administrative Unit covers the greatest mileage?

_____ August 31, 2013

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The County Legislature and the Health Department drove 31,526 and 29,020 miles, respectively, for an approximate total cost of $33,603. Health Department employees are reimbursed for driving their personal vehicles to conduct inspections and permit verifications. However, members of the Legislature, uniquely among County administrative units and by virtue of their own policy, are reimbursed for their commuting miles from their home to the County Office Building in addition to miles driven for various other County business meetings. Table #3 details the job titles of the top 10 individuals with reimbursed mileage during 2012. Most of these individuals are employed by the previously mentioned departments. The highest reimbursed employee was a Social Service caseworker who had been reimbursed $4,200. Trending Data In January of 2010 our Office highlighted areas of concern and emphasized potential cost-saving measures to both the County Executive’s Office and the Legislature. Chart #1 below, entitled “Annual Mileage Reimbursement Trend from Year Ends 2008 – 2012,” displays a downward trend in reimbursable mileage expenses to County employees. We are pleased to note that over the 5 year period, the total amount of reimbursable mileage costs have decreased an aggregate of over $400,000 with 2012 showing over a $152,000 reduction since the 2008 baseline. It is likely that our efforts to raise a heightened awareness of avoidable costdrivers within administrative units have led to greater efficiency in this area by the County overall. Can the County save more money? Reimbursement of miles for employees is a common and acceptable practice and is an appropriate operating cost. However, two areas that could contribute to potential cost savings for the County and, ultimately, taxpayers, are detailed below.

As noted, in 2012 Ulster County paid out approximately
$214,000 to its employees for roughly 385,000 reimbursable miles. Table #2 details the top 10 administrative units by total miles driven. As the table reflects, the top three administrative units include DSS, the County Legislature and the Health Department. DSS covered a total annual distance of 232,219 miles, or 60%, of total miles driven.

Efficient Use of Pool Cars - DSS DSS expends the most in mileage reimbursements based on the fact that case workers and investigators are on the road to client appointments and households in order to provide their specific job duties. However, it should be noted that as of December 31, 2012, DSS had a fleet of 35 vehicles. These vehicles are at their disposal to be used before an employee uses their own vehicle. The vehicles within the DSS fleet are assigned to specific service units. County employees are not permitted to transport clients in their personal vehicles. Therefore, there are a number of cars that must be available at all times for emergency situations. The County administration and DSS should investigate whether the expense of utilizing pool cars is more cost effective than mileage reimbursement, and, if so, ensure that all pool vehicles are in use prior to an employee using their personal car, a requirement that must be adhered to as part of the reimbursement claim procedures. DSS should also consider whether the number of pool cars are sufficient, or if allocation of car assignments per service unit is appropriate. This would entail examining under-utilized vehicles and assigning them to areas that have a deficiency of vehicles such as the Child Protective Service Unit. It may be more practical to re-assign under-utilized vehicles within the County’s existing fleet as a solution. The amount reimbursed during 2012 by DSS was equivalent to purchasing approximately seven vehicles. Additionally, the amount of time committed to processing the high volume of claims could be significantly reduced if DSS, in cooperation with the Fleet Manager, analyzes the effective use of its pool car inventory as well as any additional vehicles that may be necessary.

Reimbursing for Commuting Miles From Home to Work Unlike other County employees, County Legislators are permitted to be reimbursed not only for their travel related expenses for business miles, but for their commuting miles, from their home to the County Office Building as well. Pursuant to New York State County Law Section 203, Legislators are allowed to charge their miles actually incurred, and necessarily traveled, while on official County business when using his or her own vehicle. Such enabling legislation typically requires official action by the local legislative body (in this case, the County Legislature), to evidence their adoption of a policy in keeping with the state enabling legislation. Although there is an internal policy in place in the legislative offices which authorizes the commuting mileage practice, it does not appear that it was ever acted upon by the full Legislature. However, we are advised that there is a resolution of the Legislature by which the policy is referenced and an adjustment made, by which legislators are permitted to be reimbursed for mileage traveled to and from his or her residence, less 15 miles (Ulster County Resolution Number 157 of 2006). The reference to this resolution requires further clarification, however, as there is not specific mention of the policy on the face of the resolution. We are advised that the supporting documentation for the resolution included the necessary reference. In determining whether it would be prudent to clarify the policy and formally pass a resolution with direct reference to the terms of that policy, we note that according to IRS regulations, the reimbursement for “commuting miles” should be a taxable benefit to the Legislators if this practice is continued. These mileage reimbursements should be segregated into two separate categories: commuting miles and noncommuting miles. This would allow for the determination of the taxability and tax free reimbursements accordingly. Table #4 provides a breakdown of these miles for Ulster County Legislators reimbursed during the year ended December 31, 2012, from the highest cost reimbursement to the lowest.

All information contained in the tables below is for Year Ended December 31, 2012.
Table #1: Breakdown of 2012 Employee Reimbursements Amount Reimbursement Type Mileage Meal Reimbursements - Taxable Travel Miscellaneous Meal Reimbursements - Non-Taxable Totals: Reimbursed $213,931 21,821 14,000 10,166 9,250 $269,168 Percentage of Total 80% 8% 5% 4% 3% 100%
Table #2: Summary by Administrative Unit Unit's Miles Administrative Unit Dept. of Social Services County Legislature Health Department District Attorney Public Defender Mental Health Arson Task Force Planning Department Tourism Comptroller All Other Totals: Driven 232,219 31,526 29,020 15,573 13,636 13,617 11,149 4,723 4,330 4,133 25,536 385,462 Percentage of Miles Driven 60% 8% 8% 4% 4% 3% 3% 1% 1% 1% 7% 100% Amount Reimbursed $128,882 17,497 16,106 8,643 7,568 7,557 6,188 2,621 2,403 2,294 14,172 $213,931

Table #3: Top Ten Employee Mileage Reimbursements Miles Individuals Job Title Caseworker Caseworker Caseworker Early Intervention Specialist Legislator Caseworker Defender Based Advocate Early Intervention Specialist Caseworker Account Clerk Admin. Unit Social Services Social Services Social Services Social Services Legislature Social Services Public Defender Social Services Social Services Mental Health Totals: Driven 7,568 6,737 6,679 6,594 6,374 6,348 6,113 6,047 5,867 5,715 64,042 Amount Reimbursed $4,200 3,739 3,707 3,660 3,538 3,523 3,393 3,356 3,256 3,172 $35,544

Chart #1: Annual Mileage Reimbursement Trend from Year Ends 2008 - 2012
$400,000 $350,000 $300,000
$366,000

$250,000 $200,000 $150,000 $100,000 $50,000 $-

$350,572

$256,540

$229,826

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Dollars Reimbursed

$213,931

Table #4: Commuting Miles vs. Business Mile Reimbursement Costs for
Legislator Bernardo Lopez Ronk Jr. Gerentine Maio Wishnick Bartels Roberts Briggs Wawro Harris Rodriguez Parete, R. Zimet* Belfiglio Hayes Total Commuting Miles 3,508 4,100 3,402 2,266 1,855 1,649 1,697 1,572 981 891 902 884 351 539 24,597 Commuting Miles Reimbursed $1,947 $2,276 $1,888 $1,258 $1,030 $915 $942 $872 $545 $495 $501 $491 $195 $284 $0 $0 $13,639 Business Miles 2,866 681 613 140 339 481 60 72 450 380 256 117 215 15 251 16 6,952 Business Miles Reimbursed $1,591 $378 $340 $78 $188 $267 $33 $40 $250 $211 $142 $65 $119 $8 $139 $9 $3,858 Total Cost for Mileage $3,538 $2,654 $2,228 $1,336 $1,218 $1,182 $975 $912 $795 $706 $643 $556 $314 $292 $139 $9 $17,497

*Legislator is included in 2012 mileage reimbursements for accumulated commuting miles due for 2011 miles traveled.

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