A simple $5K appropriation request at Tuesday’s County Council meeting led to a long discussion about funding and county policies related to travel and training, a topic that has dominated county news over the past couple of weeks. This prompted me to make a few comments about how training and travel of elected officials are paid for in county government.
Elected Officials Training Fund
At Tuesday’s County Council meeting, the Council appropriated $5000 from the Elected Officials Training Fund to support state-mandated travel and training. This is the first time that this fund will actually be used, although it was created by statute several years ago. It is funded by certain document recording fees in the Recorder’s Office. The fund can only be used by certain elected officials (Auditor, Treasurer, Clerk, Recorder, and Surveyor), and only for certain types of training (basically, that training that is actually mandated by statute). The fund can only be used by the elected officials themselves (i.e., no staff or deputies), and all county travel policies for reimbursement of expenses still apply.
Note that this training fund is not available to county councilors or county commissioners, nor is it available to Assessors (who have the Sales Disclosure fund available for their training).
During the discussion for this appropriation, the Auditor and the Council mentioned “state-called meetings” several times. State-called meetings are annual meetings of so-called “local fiscal officers”,which includes county auditors, treasurers, and clerks, and which the State Board of Accounts is authorized and required to convene, under the statute IC 5-11-14-1. In addition, the State Board of Accounts is authorized (but not required) to convene meetings for other elected officials, such as members of County Councils.
Although these state-called meetings are not mandatory for local elected officials to attend, they are strongly recommended, as they are called to give local elected officials important information about new legislation, new procedures, etc., or to address common problems or areas of concern. If the elected official chooses to attend the state-called meeting, the local government is required to pay for the travel expenses of the elected official: one night’s lodging if the official lives more than 50 miles from the meeting location, and a mileage and meal rate determined by the local fiscal body (i.e., the County Council, for county officials). The
When travel is paid for travel to state-called meetings, the county is required to pay for it out of unappropriated moneys in the general fund. This means that the travel expenses are paid out of cash that is sitting in the general fund but has not been budgeted or appropriated by the county council.
Conveniently enough, he County Council just this morning received an invitation to a state-called meeting for councilors, to be held on June 21, 2014 in Shelbyville, IN. Here is the agenda and letter that describes the authorization of State Board of Accounts to call the meeting, and to require counties to pay for the travel expenses:
You can also get an idea from the agenda the types of issues that are discussed in these state-called meetings. Among other things, the new legislation related to Business Personal Property Taxes will be discussed at this meeting.
Funding of Travel and Training for Elected Officials
In summary, when elected officials attend training activities (and travel to these activities), the following funding sources are used to pay for it:
- F0r state-called meetings, the County is required to pay for it out of unappropriated monies in the General Fund
- For other training that fulfills statutory training requirements for the Auditor, Treasurer, Clerk, Surveyor, and Recorder, it may be paid from the Elected Officials Training Fund, which must be appropriated by the County Council
- For training that fulfills the statutory training requirements of the Assessor, it may be paid for from the Sales Disclosure Fund
- All other training would have to be paid for from the appropriated budgets of the individual departments