Thursday, August 18th, 2016

New Rules for Travel Expense Reimbursement

As a result of a new law effective January 1, 2017, certain local government officials will have new rules and limitations on reimbursement of travel, meal and lodging expenses. Every local public agency affected by this legislation will need to have regulations in place no later than June 30, 2017, but it is our recommendation that those regulations be in place no later than the start of 2017 due to other requirements contained in the new legislation which are outlined below.

Public Act 099-0604 applies to school districts, community college districts and non-home rule units of local government. The act requires that by June 30, 2017, all local public agencies (as defined in the prior sentence) must pass regulations for the reimbursement of travel, meal and lodging expenses of officers, employees and members of the corporate authorities of the local public agency.

Specifically, the regulation must: (1) establish the types of official business for which expenses are allowed; (2) provide the maximum allowable reimbursement for the expenses; and (3) establish a standardized form for submission of the supporting documentation for the claimed expenses.

Further, the Act requires that as of March 2, 2017, any expenses for travel, meals and lodging for any officer/employee/member of corporate authorities which exceeds the maximum allowed under the regulations adopted by the local public agency may only be approved by roll call vote at an open meeting of the corporate authorities of the local public agency.

Ironically, the Act requires compliance with the regulations prior to actually requiring the local public agencies to adopt said regulations, but that is an article on a whole different topic.

In addition to restrictions and limitations on the reimbursement of travel, meal and lodging expenses of local government officials, the Act also provides that “[n]o local public agency may reimburse any governing board member, employee, or officer for any entertainment expense.”  The Act provides that “entertainment” includes activities such as shows, sporting events or “any other place of public or private entertainment or amusement, unless ancillary to the purpose of the program or event.”  Obviously, the argument there will be over whether or not the “entertainment” is “ancillary to the purpose of the program or event.”

Given the specific requirements contained in Public Act 099-0604, please be sure to contact your legal counsel for guidance on how to implement and apply the necessary regulations.

Timothy J. Clifton

Author: Timothy J. Clifton