Chapter 2.92


2.92.010    Purpose and administration.

2.92.020    City employees and city officials.

2.92.030    Nontravel food and beverage reimbursement policy.

2.92.040    Noncity employees and noncity officials.

2.92.050    Claims and approval process.

2.92.010 Purpose and administration.

A. Purpose. The purpose of this chapter is to identify and provide guidelines regarding the city’s travel policies and to further delineate those valid business expenses for which an employee or official may qualify for payment or reimbursement.

B. Objectives. The objectives of this policy are to provide employees, public officials and others who incur authorized business expenses for travel, subsistence, registration, and related expenses while on city business, reasonable and timely mechanisms for the reimbursement of such necessary expenditures.

C. Administration.

1. It is recognized that city payment for business-related food and beverage for both travel and nontravel purposes will be incurred by city staff and officials wherein reimbursement will be provided. This chapter serves to provide guidelines by which to determine whether or not expenditures by city employees or officials may be reimbursable to the employee and/or official, and by which to determine whether or not refreshments and related costs served or made available at meetings involving volunteers and other quasi-employees are legitimate city expenditures.

2. Claimants have the responsibility for becoming knowledgeable about authorized expenditures and the documentation requirements. Care must be taken to avoid unnecessary or excessive expenditures, and those not directly and reasonably related to the conduct of city business.

3. It shall be the responsibility of the city clerk-treasurer to adopt, publish, and enforce rules and procedures consistent with this chapter for the purpose of carrying out the provisions thereof; and to provide forms accompanied by instructions for their implementation. Exceptions to the rules set forth herein may be permitted by the city council if compliance with these rules is or was not feasible. To effectively carry out the provisions of this chapter, the city clerk-treasurer, may, from time to time, issue guidelines for the administration thereof. (Ord. 879 § 1, 1997).

2.92.020 City employees and city officials.

A. Documentation. No claim for reimbursement shall be paid unless it is accompanied by a bona fide vendor’s receipt. Should a receipt be lost or not be obtainable, an employee certification, signed by his/her supervisor (or by the mayor, if the employee is a supervisor) will serve as a substitute for a receipt. Such receipt or certification should show the date, a description of the purchase, vendor identification, amount paid, and an explanation for the lack of a receipt should that be the case. Restaurant meal “stubs” will be accepted as a receipt where a more detailed vendor receipt cannot be reasonably obtained. However, the stub must have the amount completed and initialed by restaurant staff, though the tip can be added by the employee if not included.

B. Information. Claims for reimbursement shall contain the following:

1. The name of the person who consumed the goods or used the service for which reimbursement is requested, whether it be for meals, lodging, transportation, or any other purpose.

2. A description of the event, occasion or circumstances related to the claim and the public policy or public purpose served.

3. Required receipts (or certifications where they are allowed).

C. Meals.

1. Meal costs must be incurred directly by the claimant; direct billing to the city by a restaurant is prohibited.

2. Payment for table service at a restaurant, commonly referred to as a tip, not to exceed 15 percent of the meal price (including sales tax), is reimbursable as a reasonable and necessary cost for such service.

3. All city employees and officials claiming reimbursement for meals consumed while on city business shall be entitled to reimbursement not to exceed the following schedule, including tax and tip, based on vendor receipt:


$ 8.00





4. Meal cost maximums are not applied on a “per diem” basis, therefore purchasing a lesser meal so as to exceed the maximum on another meal is not acceptable. Each meal purchased is subject to that meal maximum and any unused excess cannot be carried over to another meal.

5. The city council or its designee is authorized to periodically update the meal allowance schedule based on an informal survey of actual meal costs charged by restaurants, or by applying some other appropriate measure, such as a regional consumer price index adjustment.

6. Notwithstanding the foregoing schedule, actual meal costs incurred may be claimed when they are part of a regularly scheduled business event such as a training seminar, professional meeting or conference, or other business meeting. Should a business event (professional organization) luncheon, for example, have costs exceeding the lunch maximum, reimbursement will be for the actual luncheon cost.

7. Since daily “per diem” amounts are not authorized under this policy, each meal claimed is subject to the cost limitations denoted in the above meal schedule. Any planned meals, the cost of which is included in a city paid registration fee, cannot be claimed by an employee for reimbursement.

8. The city clerk-treasurer is authorized to approve exceptions to the authorized meal allowance schedule when the departmental supervisor determines that either the region of the country is recognized as a high cost area, or that the event’s location requires a greater cost. To claim a meal schedule cost exception, the employee must prepare a written request for such exception treatment, have it approved by his/her supervisor (if applicable) and submit it to the city clerk-treasurer for final determination regarding approval. (A high cost area can be evidenced by using the Renzheimer Meal/Lodging Index or another reasonable method of determination.)

9. If the costs of meals for persons other than the claimant are included, those persons must be entitled to meal reimbursement in their own right and they shall be listed by name and title in claim documentation.

D. Travel. Reimbursement for reasonable costs of business travel is authorized. The use of a city vehicle rather than a personal car is encouraged, where one is available. General guidelines are as follows:

1. City Vehicle. Out of the area costs of vehicle operation are authorized for fuel, oil, tires and necessary repairs.

2. Personal Vehicle. Expenses shall be reimbursed for travel within a 300-mile radius of the city at the then-current maximum rate allowed by the United States Internal Revenue Service for such expense. Trips beyond this limit will be reimbursed at the lower of:

a. The established rate per mile; or

b. The lowest available (other than nonrefundable) airfare obtainable by the city clerk-treasurer, plus mileage reimbursement at the then-current city rate, based upon the estimated distance between the airport and the destination.

3. City employees who receive an automobile allowance in lieu of city-provided transportation shall not be entitled to further reimbursement for surface transportation costs within a 50-mile radius of the city. Incidental travel costs such as parking, ferry or bridge tolls are reimbursable as they would be even if a city vehicle was provided.

E. Rental Vehicle. The cost of vehicle rental when on out-of-town business is considered an exception to this policy and must be approved in writing in advance by the city clerk-treasurer. Vehicle rental authorization must be separately set out in any request for approval of travel expenses. Approval of vehicle rental as an item on a travel advance request will not be considered sufficient authorization without a separate statement presenting the reason such an expenditure is required.

F. Air Travel. Arrangement for air travel on city-related business shall be made by the department whose employee is involved in the travel, or as may otherwise be designated by the city clerk-treasurer, as outlined below:

1. Whenever feasible, the need for air travel arrangements should be provided by way of the normal purchase order process at least five weeks in advance of the departure date.

2. The authorized procurer will arrange for air travel based on the lowest available (other than nonrefundable) airfare for a regularly scheduled flight which reasonably accommodates the time of travel requested, and the destination as specified by the requesting department. A travel agency may be used.

3. The authorized procurer will purchase the tickets at the time the rate is quoted and the employee will be advised of the arrangements for acquiring the tickets.

4. If personal travel is combined with business-related travel, the traveling employee shall be responsible for paying the increase in airfare necessary to accommodate the personal part of the flight. The city shall only pay the lowest available (other than nonrefundable) airfare for the round trip between Soap Lake and the business related destination. Such payment for personal travel shall accompany the city’s payment to the vendor for the tickets.

5. If changes in travel plans occur that are the result of city business requirements (i.e., delays in departure, cancellations, extended stays, or revised itinerary), any associated costs shall be paid by the city. However, any increase in the cost of travel due to changes for personal convenience will be borne by the employee.

6. Employees who obtain airline tickets on their own will be reimbursed based on the “lower” of:

a. Actual out-of-pocket cost paid for the airline tickets or alternate means of transportation (substantiated by receipt); or

b. The lowest (other than nonrefundable) airfare available for their time of travel, unless an exception is granted in writing by the city clerk-treasurer.

When purchased by the employee, he/she must pay the cost of the travel and seek reimbursement along with all other travel expenses. Direct billing of airfare to the city is allowed only if arranged for or approved by the city clerk-treasurer.

7. First class air travel is not authorized.

G. Other Miscellaneous Travel Expenses.

1. Miscellaneous travel costs such as bus, taxi, bridge or other tolls, parking, ferry, porter, bellman and the like (not including any maid service) are authorized by a listing of same on the reimbursement form. Payment of a reasonable amount for porter service, bellman service and the like is considered to be a necessary payment for such service and, therefore, reimbursable.

2. A vendor’s receipt will be required only when the single item cost of this type of expense exceeds $10.00.

3. Local parking, ferry and bridge tolls may be reimbursed through the petty cash system, subject to petty cash guidelines.

H. Out of State or Overnight Travel. To be eligible for any city reimbursement for out of state and/or overnight travel expense, the one-way travel distance must be greater than 50 miles from city or home. Any employee, except for members of city council, must receive written authorization from the city council or its designee to stay overnight on official city business within a 50-mile radius. This approval must be in the form of an approved “travel advance request” and will be required to accompany any reimbursement claim for this type of travel. In those cases where travel advance money is not being requested, the travel advance request form with zero dollars will be used with the actual reimbursement request.

I. Accommodations. Reasonable hotel/motel accommodations for employees and officials are acceptable and will be reimbursed at a maximum of the single room rate. Exceptions may be authorized by the city clerk-treasurer should a single room rate not be available, but evidence of this should be received from the hotel/motel. A vendor’s receipt for this category is required for all claims. Direct billing of hotel/motel charges is not allowed. Room rental charges and related taxes can be paid by purchase order, but a purchase order cannot be used to directly pay for any other charge on the hotel bill.

J. Incidental Expenses. This category includes all reasonable and necessary incidental expenses. Those allowed and specifically not allowed are identified, but not limited to, the following:

1. Allowable Incidental Expenses.

a. Laundry expenses if away from home five or more calendar days on city business.

b. Baggage checking and handling.

c. Business telephone and postage expenses. Personal telephone calls home, if away from home for more than a 48-hour duration, are considered a business expense but are limited to one call of reasonable duration for each 48-hour period. A “reasonable duration” for this purpose would be five minutes. Costs for longer calls will be paid by the employee with the amount determined on a proportional basis. Telephone calls to make travel-related arrangements are business expenses and will be reimbursed.

2. Nonallowable Incidental Expenses. Unauthorized expenditures include, but are not limited to:

a. Liquor;

b. Expenses of a spouse or other persons not authorized to receive reimbursement under this policy;

c. Beauty parlor or barber services;

d. Personal entertainment (movie rentals, etc.);

e. Theft, loss, or damage to personal property;

f. Damage costs caused by employee/officer actions;

g. Airline or other trip insurance;

h. Personal postage, reading materials, or nonbusiness related telephone calls (except as provided elsewhere in this policy);

i. Personal toiletry articles. (Ord. 879 § 2, 1997).

2.92.030 Nontravel food and beverage reimbursement policy.

A. Employee Expense Reimbursements. Reimbursable employee nontravel expenses are subject to the following:

1. Meals consumed by the city employee during meetings and other functions which conduct official city business or serve to benefit the city of Soap Lake are reimbursable to the employee.

2. Generally, the city will not incur costs for refreshments, and other related items, for meetings or functions held in the normal course of business or that are attended solely by city employees. However, such meetings or functions wherein a municipal function, public purpose, or city program is served or furthered and wherein the city clerk-treasurer has expressly approved the meeting as such, the city may incur such costs directly or as a reimbursement to employees who have incurred such costs on behalf of the city.

3. Refreshments purchased solely for personal entertainment are not a legitimate city expense.

B. Quasi-Employee Refreshments. “Quasi-employees” are defined as noncompensated volunteers, advisory committee members, and others, who are participating in city business but are not on the city’s payroll. Reimbursable expenditures relating to quasi-employees are authorized as follows:

1. Coffee, utensils, and other light refreshments at meetings involving volunteers and other “quasi-employees” are authorized city expenditures.

2. Incidental consumption of refreshments by city employees at meetings involving quasi-employees is allowed.

C. Ceremonies and Celebrations.

1. Reasonable expenses, including food and beverage, associated with commemorating a dedication or an unveiling that is recognized as serving a public purpose are legitimate city expenditures.

2. Private celebrations rather than public celebrations are not generally considered as serving a public purpose. Refreshment, food and beverage related costs would therefore not be recognized as legitimate city expenditures.

3. Support of a local “event” or celebration may not take the form of a gratuitous contribution of public funds to a private person, committee or organization. Expenditure of public funds on a publicly sponsored event requires:

a. The existence of a recognizable public or municipal purpose that relates to the purpose for the city’s existence;

b. Proper authorization from the legislative authority for such public sponsorship; and

c. A reasonable relationship between the amount of the city’s expenditure and the “public” nature of the event. (Ord. 879 § 3, 1997).

2.92.040 Noncity employees and noncity officials.

A. Meal Reimbursement for Noncity Employees and Noncity Officials.

1. Employee claims for reimbursement of meal costs for noncity employees and noncity officials will be allowed only with a memo of authorization from the city clerk-treasurer or his/her designee, which must be included with the reimbursement request. This memo must identify:

a. The name(s) of the individual(s) being hosted;

b. The official title or capacity of the person(s) and how it relates to city business;

c. The nature of the topic or topics discussed, nature of the occasion, what public purpose or public policy was served; and

d. How this activity was an appropriate way to carry out that purpose or policy.

B. Councilmember claims for the reimbursement of meal costs for noncity employees and noncity officials will require a memo of authorization by the mayor, or in the mayor’s absence, the mayor pro tem, and this memo must be included with the reimbursement request. This memo must identify the following:

1. The name(s) of the individual(s) being hosted;

2. The official title or capacity of the person(s) and how it relates to city business;

3. The nature of the topic or topics discussed, nature of the occasion, what public purpose or public policy was served; and

4. How this activity was an appropriate way to carry out that purpose or policy. (Ord. 879 § 4, 1997).

2.92.050 Claims and approval process.

A. All claims shall be submitted for reimbursement using the personal reimbursement form along with a purchase order. Travel and subsistence expenses, except for incidental and minor costs authorized in this policy or in the petty cash guidelines, will not be paid from petty cash, unless authorized by the city clerk-treasurer.

B. “Special” approvals required by this policy shall be obtained by employees in advance from the city clerk-treasurer, or his/her designee; and by councilmembers from the mayor, or in his/her absence, by the mayor pro tem. Such approvals shall be in advance of the event and by separate memo, which identifies the policy exception being authorized and the reasons for the exception.

C. All noncouncil reimbursement claims must be authorized by the claimant’s supervisor or by the city clerk-treasurer.

D. Claims of the city clerk-treasurer will be approved by the mayor or, in his/her absence, the mayor pro tem.

E. Claims of the mayor will be approved by the city clerk-treasurer. Should the clerk-treasurer be absent for an extended period, he/she may delegate this authority to the mayor pro tem.

F. Claims of councilmembers must be approved by the mayor or, in his/her absence, the mayor pro tem. The mayor may also delegate this responsibility to the city clerk-treasurer.

G. Claims may include the reimbursable costs of other city officials or employees who would be entitled in their own right to claim business expenses.

H. Claims that are rejected by the city clerk-treasurer shall be referred back to the claimant for review and disposition. Should a dispute arise, the claim and related documentation shall be submitted to the city council for review and final disposition. (Ord. 879 § 5, 1997).