1    Purpose

2    Application

3    Guidance

3.1    General Guidance for Travel Cost Reimbursement

3.2    Amendments to the Procedures and Policies

4    Forms

4.1    Expense Report Form


To establish policies and procedures for travel by City employees while conducting official City business. Employees should limit travel and take advantage of training opportunities provided in-house or locally. All persons seeking travel reimbursement are to use good judgment and discretion, limiting expenses in the use of public resources. The City will pay or reimburse for travel expenses related to official City business within the guidance of this Policy and with proper documentation.


This Policy applies to all City employees (including paid and unpaid interns), City Councilmembers and Board, Commission and Committee members appointed by the City Council. This Policy applies to all travel outside of Thurston County.


All official travel by employees must be authorized by the Department Director or designee. Travel by members of Boards, Commissions and Committees appointed by the City Council shall be authorized by the City Manager.

Travel may be approved for the following:

•    Annual National or State conferences of professional organizations.

•    Professional association meetings.

•    Training required for performing duties of a City position.

•    Additional travel that is approved by the Department Director.


Whenever the word “employee” is used in this policy, it shall also mean any official serving the City in their official capacity, including elected officials and members of Boards, Commissions and Committees appointed by the City Council.

Travel reimbursements will be made only when valid receipts are presented. “Valid receipts” means documentation which details the items(s) purchased or paid, place of purchase and date; credit card receipts without such details are not valid documentation. Certain items will be reimbursed without receipts for those items that do not have receipts available (e.g. parking meters).

As a general rule, travel costs are expected to be kept to a minimum. The City shall pay for mileage, transportation, lodging, meals, and other necessary travel expenses incurred while on official City business. This means staying in reasonable accommodations; purchasing reasonably priced meals; using reasonably priced parking and transportation services; and on the whole, using public money responsibly and with an eye to frugality.

Items, which if paid by the City would create a tax liability or tax reporting requirement by the City, are not authorized City costs, and are excluded from this policy.

a.    This policy shall also apply to items included in this policy whether paid directly by the City, credit card provided by the City or reimbursed.

b.    In order to comply with acceptable internal controls, no employee may authorize their own travel reimbursement (refer to 4.1, Section K for authorization details).

c.    Meal Reimbursements

1.    Overnight Travel: Travel longer than an ordinary day’s work requiring an overnight stay.

The City will pay or reimburse only from valid detailed receipts for meals. The City will not reimburse more than the following (these include tax and gratuity):







Reimbursements for meals shall not be made for a meal if the employee partook in a meal which was paid for as part of registration or paid for by another party.

2.    Day Travel

If there is no overnight stay, City will pay or reimburse in accordance with requirements of section c.1. and:

a)    The meal occurs in a clear business setting, business is actively conducted and the business is directly related to City business, or

b)    Meals included as part of registration.

Examples: (day travel)

i.    Employee travels for the purposes of picking up supplies and a meal occurs during the trip. Meal is not eligible for reimbursement.

ii.    Employee travels to Seattle for training and meal is included with registration costs. Employee would be reimbursed if the employee paid for the registration.

iii.    Employee travels to Seattle for training and meal is not included with registration costs. Training attendees adjourn for a meal. The meal is not reimbursable.

iv.    Employee travels to Seattle for a meeting and a meal is served in the meeting room and business is conducted immediately before and after the meal, or during the meal. Meal is reimbursable.

d.    Reimbursements will be made from valid receipts.

e.    Payments for lodging, transportation and registration should be arranged in advance via purchase order, City credit card, or City check.

f.    The following are deemed ineligible expenses and shall not be paid by the City: alcoholic beverages, meals or lodging for family or guests, mileage if traveling as a passenger in a privately owned car, or other such expenses of a personal nature (i.e., entertainment, pay television, etc.). Additional extracurricular activity charges associated while on travel status (entertainment activities, golf, dinner cruise, amusement park entrance fees or clothing) are not eligible expenses and are the sole financial responsibility of the employee.

g.    The City will pay registration fees in conjunction with authorized travel.

h.    The following outlines the policies for transportation expenses:

1.    Official City Vehicles

Use of City vehicles for travel in connection with official City business will be encouraged whenever practical. Non-City personnel may accompany City employees authorized to attend official conferences, seminars, meetings, etc. in City vehicle(s) authorized for this use upon prior approval of the Department Director.

2.    Transportation

Department Directors shall be responsible for determining the mode of transportation most beneficial to the City. Carpooling is required whenever practical and reasonable.

3.    Other Transportation Costs (whenever possible, include receipts)

a)    Mileage

Mileage for use of a personal vehicle will be paid at the rate established by the Internal Revenue Service. Mileage is calculated from the employee’s normal work site, unless actual mileage is less.

b)    Parking Charges

Reasonable and necessary charges for parking while on official City business.

c)    Ferry, Bridge and Toll Road Charges

Reasonable and necessary charges of this nature incurred in connection with official City travel.

d)    Rental Cars

Reasonable and necessary charges of this nature incurred in connection with official City travel.

e)    Airport Shuttle, Bus, Taxi or Other

Actual costs to and from terminal and final destination will be allowed, with receipt.

f)    Baggage Handling & Baggage Fees

Established and/or reasonable charges of this nature will be allowed, with receipt.

i.    Lodging and incidental lodging expenses will be paid under the following circumstances:

1.    Reimbursement for hotel or motel rooms will be on the basis of actual expenditure. Ineligible room charges or incidental non-reimbursable expenses are to be paid by the employee (i.e., pay television channels, room service, etc.).

2.    Employees will only be reimbursed for employee lodging. The employee is responsible for any additional charges or increased rates due to non-employees accompanying them while traveling.

3.    Reasonable incidental lodging expenses required in connection with official City business, will be reimbursed on the basis of actual expenditure.

4.    A maximum of $5.00 per day for personal phone calls, plus access charges, will be paid by the City in recognition of the inconvenience of being away from the City. In addition, the City will reimburse for long distance calls in excess of the daily limit for calls made to conduct City business and to family members under exceptional circumstances (e.g., family emergency).

j.    Actual costs of laundry and/or valet service are allowable expenses when employees are required to be away from the City for more than six (6) days at one time, or the conditions under which they are required to work while away from the City create a more than normal need for such services.

k.    Travel Reimbursements

Request for reimbursement of travel expenses shall be prepared by the employee claiming reimbursement on the Expense Report Form to be submitted to the Administrative Services Department. Employees requesting reimbursement must sign the certification printed on the reimbursement form. The reimbursement form must be completed by the employee and signed by the Department Director or their designee. In the case of a Department Director, the City Manager, Administrative Services Director, or designee, may sign the authorization. Requests by Councilmembers must be signed by the City Manager or designee.

All requests for expense travel reimbursement must be submitted on the Expense Report Form.

l.    Per Diem, Special Application

When travel expenses are reimbursed by a grant to the employee or City based on per diem rates, reimbursements may be made to employees per section 3.1.c and/or 3.1.i, less the per diem paid to the employee.

Per Diem paid to the employee is not to exceed the federal per diem rate as established annually by the U.S. General Services Administration.

m.    Credit Cards (RCW 42.24.115)

1.    Credit cards may be authorized by the Administrative Services Director for travel purposes.

2.    Refer to the Credit Card/Merchant Card/Pre-Paid Card policy for specific instructions on the use of credit cards.

n.    Hosting

1.    Hosting is defined as paying expenses for individuals not covered under this policy.

2.    Employees are not authorized to incur expenses on behalf of the City to host any individual(s) not covered under this policy.

It is illegal for the City to expend funds for which it does not receive a measurable benefit, or to make gifts of public funds. The Washington State Constitution, Article 8, Section 7, prohibits gifts of public funds:

“No county, city, town or other municipal corporation shall hereafter give any money, or property, or loan its money, or credit to or in aid of any individual . . .“

o.    Determination of Eligible Travel Costs

Any determination of whether an expense qualifies under this policy shall be made by the Administrative Services Director or designee. This shall be done on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the type of duties and responsibilities of the employee/official making the request, including those of elected officials, and the nature of the expense incurred.

p.    The City Manager may authorize travel expenditures or reimbursements which vary from this policy on a case-by-case basis. Such authorizations shall be evidenced by co-signing the payment approval or by substitute written authorization. Such reimbursements shall not set a precedent for similar expenses and/or reimbursements. Variances to the policy shall not be made that create a tax liability or tax reporting requirement by the City.


The Administrative Services Director may make changes to this policy as needed for administrative or clarification purposes.


4.1    Expense Report Form

Revision history: February 2017; October 2013; November 2011; Superseded: N/A.