Havre Daily News
Havre school board members are concerned that some of the financial burden for work-related travel is falling on district staff. The board decided Tuesday to consider changing the way it reimburses staff for hotel expenses, a change administrators estimate could cost the district as much as $1,500 a year.
"They should never lose money going out and doing our bidding," school board member Joe Marino said.
The problem caught the board's attention because a subcommittee is reviewing all district policies. Current policy says staff will be reimbursed for hotel expenses up to the amount that Super 8 Motel charges in Helena for a single room on July 1 of that year, director of operations Ric Floren said.
This school year the rate was $45. If hotel expenses are above that amount, the staff member has to pay the difference. If the staffer found cheaper accommodations, she or he could pocket the difference.
The board will look at a new policy next month that allows staff members to be reimbursed for "reasonable, actual" expenses.
The subcommittee reviewing policies had suggested using Holiday Inn as the standard instead of Super 8.
"We don't want them to have to stay on the south side of Billings" because they can't find anything cheaper elsewhere, Floren said.
Marino objected to the system, whatever the standard.
Other board members quickly agreed.
"I think it sends a message to our people," Kathie Newell said.
Marino suggested the district reimburse staff for the cost of "reasonable, actual" hotel expenses.
But assistant superintendent Dennis Parman said a standard was helpful. Much of the travel is arranged through Parman's office. Without a more specific board policy, he said it would be difficult to deny reimbursing someone even if they spent $180 where a $90 room was available.
Floren roughly estimated that the district reimburses staffers for a few hundred nights of lodging a year.
Marino said a new policy could cost the district more, but it could also even out if the board no longer allowed staffers to keep the difference from cheaper accommodations.
Personnel director Karla Wohlwend said she recently had to pay for work-related travel. She said she traveled with four other staff members and was the odd one out when they paired up for rooms. Wohlwend's room was $69 plus tax.
Board member Todd Hanson asked Floren to research the number of staff members who have been affected by the current policy for the next meeting, when the school board will make a decision.
Board members agreed that food reimbursements should increase from $1 per hour of travel to $1.25 per hour of travel in state and from $1 per hour to $2 per hour out of state.