Travel Policies

Policy Approve By
Scott McCallum, Superintendent
Policy Date (original policy date)
Policy Prepared By
Maria Sarate, Director of Business & Finance
Policy Category
Personnel

Purpose

To define WSSB’s travel policies and expectations. Refer to RCW 43.03 for state of Washington travel statutes and to the State Administrative and Accounting Manual (SAAM), Chapter 10, for state of Washington policies and procedures.

Applicability

The following persons must comply with WSSB and state of Washington policies and procedures:

  • All WSSB employees and volunteers, unless otherwise provided by law.
  • All WSSB officers shall comply with SAAM 10.70, Boards, Commissions or Committees.
  • Persons, other than WSSB employees, whose travel expenses are authorized by statute, but the statute is silent as to amount.
  • Contractors, unless there are specific contractual arrangements modifying travel reimbursement.

These rules may be used as a guideline for payment of legally authorized travel expenses for students and other clients of the WSSB. (SAAM 10.10.05)

Conflicting Rates

When a sponsoring agreement specifies policies or rates which are less restrictive than WSSB policies or rates, apply the WSSB policy or rate.

When a sponsoring agreement specifies policies or rates that are more restrictive than WSSB policies or rates, apply the policy or rate of the sponsoring agreement.

TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION

A traveler must have prior approval to be eligible to travel and to be reimbursed for travel expenses. 

OUT-OF-STATE TRAVEL

Travel anywhere outside the boundaries of the state of Washington is to be considered out-of-state and should be coded as out-of-state travel. However, with respect to the requirement for prior authorization of out-of-state travel in Subsection 10.10.50, travel to counties and/or cities in the states of Idaho and Oregon that are contiguous to the border between Washington-Idaho or Washington-Oregon shall not be considered out-of-state.

Out-of-state travel requires pre-approval by the Superintendent.

The following requirements apply to approval of all official WSSB travel.

Authority to Approve All Travel

WSSB's administrative cabinet members are authorized to approve all travel for subordinates.

APPROVING TRAVEL

Administrators identify appropriate travel.

  • For an employee, appropriate travel is official WSSB business away from the employee’s official station.
  • Appropriate travel results in some benefit to WSSB.

Administrators are to exercise prudent judgement when approving travel-related costs.(SAAM 10.10.10)

Administrators are to ensure that any travel costs incurred are:

  • Directly work related,
  • Obtained at the most economical price, and
  • Both critical and necessary for state business (SAAM 10.10.10)

Administrators are to ensure that travelers are not treated differently under like travel circumstances. (SAAM 10.10.10)

Criteria

An approving administrator must use the following criteria when authorizing a person to travel on official state business and determining travel alternatives:

Economical

Administrators and travelers are to select the travel alternative that is most economical to the state. Agencies must use this criterion except in the situations noted below under “Advantageous”.

All costs, e.g., travel, labor, should be considered when making the determination. For example:  Is it less expensive to drive than fly out of Spokane Airport?  Is it cheaper to fly out of Spokane than out of Pullman?

Advantageous

Administrators and travels are to select the travel alternative that is most advantageous to the state.  An agency may use this advantageous criterion only in the following situations:

  • To ensure the health and safety of agency travelers (See below)
  • To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (See Below)
  • To process approval for meals with meetings(SAAM 70.15)  
  • To authorize the use of privately owned motor vehicles (SAAM 10.50.20)

The personal travel plan of the traveler are not to influence this criterion.

Alternatives to Travel

Before approving travel, an administrator is to evaluate travel alternatives that may achieve the same result for less money, i.e., teleconferencing, video conferencing, mailing video recordings or published reports, reducing the frequency of scheduled out-of-town meetings, carpooling, or use of public transit.  (SAAM 10.10.25)

Limit Numbers

The number of sponsored travelers attending a meeting should be the minimum necessary, consistent with the benefit to WSSB.

Excessive Expenses

The WSSB does not reimburse excessive or unnecessary expenses.

Compliance with Americans with Disability Act (ADA)

In order to comply with the ADA, administrators are to provide all employees an equal opportunity to travel on official business. Administrators may approve travel costs for disabled travelers even if those costs exceed what would normally be most economical to the WSSB.  (SAAM 10.60.30) Examples include: costs to transport a wheelchair and to accommodate wheelchair access, costs to obtain auxiliary aids for a hearing- or vision-impaired traveler.  When additional expenses are necessary, indicate on the Travel Expense Voucher that the expenditures are required in order to comply with the ADA.

Ensure Health and Safety

The health and safety of travelers is a top priority in the conduct of travel related activities.  It is advantageous to the state for departments to establish and alter travel plans and itineraries with consideration of hazardous inclement weather and other situations that could threaten the health and safety of state personnel.

Weather Is Not Involved

Pre-approval by the traveler’s supervisor is generally required when an alteration of travel plans, for health and safety reasons other than severe inclement weather, will result in extra travel expenses. In emergency situations such as sudden onset of incapacitating illness, the supervisor should be contacted as soon as possible. An explanation of the health or safety issue must also be noted on the traveler’s Travel Expense Voucher. 

Weather Is Involved.

Prompt notification of the traveler’s supervisor is required when an alteration of travel plans and itineraries due to severe inclement weather may result in extra travel expenses. The severe inclement weather condition must also be noted on the traveler’s Travel Expense Voucher.

TRAVELER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

A traveler on official state business is responsible for the following:  (SAAM 10.10.15)

Regulations

Being familiar with state and agency travel and transportation regulations before embarking on travel.

Prudent Judgment

Exercising the same care in incurring expenses and accomplishing the purposes of the travel that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business. Excess costs, circuitous routes, delays, or luxury accommodations unnecessary or unjustified in the performance of official state business travel are not acceptable.

Personal Preference

Paying any excess costs and any additional expenses incurred for personal preference or convenience.

Prompt Return

Returning as promptly as possible to either the official station or official residence when the state business is completed.

Prior Authorization

Securing prior authorization for travel when required. (SAAM 10.10.50)

TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT PRINCIPLES

Travelers may be reimbursed for the following types of expenses incurred on official state business subject to the requirements and restrictions of this chapter.(SAAM 10.20.10) and SAAM 10.70.20 (boards, commissions and committees).

Lodging

The actual cost of lodging up to a specified maximum. Original receipts are required or agency policy may allow non-original receipts if the agency ensures adequate controls are in place to reduce the risk of duplicate or improper payments. Refer to Section 10.30 and SAAM 10.70.20 (boards, commissions and committees).

Meals for WSSB Employees and Volunteers.

The allowable rate for meal reimbursement, refer to Subsection 10.40.30.  Criteria has been established for meal reimbursement when employees have official business that takes them away from their official duty station for the entire duration of their regular scheduled shift plus three hours.  Reimbursement must meet the mealtime criteria below and the allowance shall not exceed the maximum allowable per diem rate for their final destination.  Additionally, a traveler must be in travel status during the entire meal period.  Submission of reimbursement should be made using a Travel Expense Voucher form with accompanying supporting documentation. 

Travel Advances.  

An agency may make a travel expense advance, up to 75% of allowable estimated travel costs, to defray some costs the traveler may incur while traveling on official state business away from the official station or residence, refer to SAAM 10.80.60

Meals and Lodging Reimbursement for Members of boards, commissions and committees.  

WSSB’s Board of Trustees is a Class One Board established in RCW 430.3.220.  Members, if entitled to reimbursement for meals and lodging are to be reimbursed under Option 1 below: 

Option 1

For allowable meal and lodging expenses in non-high cost areas of the Continental USA, reimburse at the hourly, non-high cost per diem rate displayed in Subsection 10.90.20 (PDF file) for each hour spent in going to a meeting, attendance at a meeting, and returning from the meeting.

For allowable meal and lodging expenses in high cost areas of the Continental USA and in all areas outside the Continental USA, reimburse members at an hourly rate equal to 1/24th of the maximum allowable per diem rate in effect at the time of travel for the specific area or locality, as displayed in Subsection 10.90.10.

Under this option, members attending meetings and performing other official business are considered to be in travel status and the three hour rule (Subsection 10.40.50) and official station rule (Subsection 10.30.40) do not apply.

Members should submit claims for reimbursement on a Travel Expense Voucher designed for members of boards and commissions (form A20-2A) after the travel has occurred.

Subsection 10.30.20 (Exception to the Maximum Allowable Lodging Amounts) may not be used in cases where individuals paid under this option are attending board meetings.

Payments to advisory board members should comply with IRS Annual U.S. Information Returns (1099’s) requirements.

Establishment of pre-determined meal periods is required to determine whether a traveler is entitled to reimbursement of meal costs under SAAM 10.40.50.  WSSB has established the following meal periods:

  • Breakfast:  6am-7am
  • Lunch:  12pm-1pm
  • Dinner:  6pm-7pm

Lodging and meals rates comprise the two components of the maximum allowable per diem rate for the Continental United States (CONUS). The meals and incidental rate for travel outside CONUS includes an allowance for laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing of clothes expense.

Meals with Meetings

RCW 43.03.050(3) provides for reimbursement for meals, for certain business meetings (includes conferences, conventions, and formal training sessions) involving elective and appointive officials, and state employees. Additionally, other statutes may authorize agencies to provide reimbursement for meals for other individuals regardless of travel status. 

WSSB requires 10 days advance approval of meal costs at meetings, conferences, conventions, and training sessions.  Refer to SAAM 70.15 and 10.10.10.a.3 

Transportation

Costs of necessary official state business travel on railroads, airlines, ships, buses, private motor vehicles, and other means of conveyance. Refer to Section 10.50 for a full discussion.

Agencies may purchase airline and other common carrier tickets in advance under certain conditions.  (SAAM 10.50.40)

When an agency determines it can save money by taking advantage of discounts offered by a common carrier for advance bookings and payments, it is authorized to pay for airline or other common carrier tickets prior to a scheduled trip if the following conditions are met:

  • The ticket is purchased through the State Charge Card System administered by the Department of Enterprise Services (refer to Subsection 10.10.45); and
  • The agency retains control of the ticket or E-Ticket authorization number(s). If unused at the end of the fiscal year, the ticket cost is to be recorded in the concluding fiscal year as an asset rather than an expenditure. Tickets or E-Ticket authorization numbers should be provided to travelers in a timely manner in advance of travel to avoid last minute problems.

The business office will conduct a periodic review of airline ticket purchases to ensure compliance with subsections 10.50.40 and 10.50.45

Miscellaneous travel expenses

Other expenses essential to the transaction of official state business are reimbursable to the traveler. Refer to Section 10.60 for a full discussion.

The cost of personal care attendant services required by disabled travelers in order for them to travel will be allowed as a miscellaneous travel expense. Such costs may include fees and travel expenses of the attendant. The agency head or authorized designee sets the maximum reimbursement for such costs as part of the agency's required system for management and control over travel (refer to Subsection 10.10.10).

Paying Vendors Directly for Travel Costs (SAAM 10.80.55)

Pursuant to RCW 43.03.065 written approval of the agency head or authorized designee must be obtained prior to authorizing direct billing of the traveler's meal and lodging expenses to the agency and direct payment to the vendor by the agency.

Any payments made in accordance with this subsection are to be supported, at a minimum, by documents consisting of:

  • A copy of the agreement (e.g., a field order, etc.) entered into between the vendor and the agency setting forth the services to be rendered by the vendor and the charges thereof;
  • A list of the state officials, state employees, and other attendees for whom such goods and services were provided and the dates they were provided; and
  • A vendor billing in sufficient detail to ensure that payments are made in conformance with the written agreement between the parties.

Payments to vendors for travel expenses are not to result in a cost to the state in excess of what would be payable by way of reimbursement to the individuals involved.

Payments made under this subsection are reasonable, accurate, and necessary for the conduct of the agency’s business.

Non-state Reimbursement of state travel

State travelers are not to be reimbursed more than the actual expenses of travel except for meals which can be reimbursed on an allowance basis as listed in Subsections 10.90.10 and 10.90.20.

Travel-related costs NOT reimbursed

The following types of travel-related costs shall not be reimbursed:

  • Alcoholic beverage expenses.
  • The cost of the daily commute between the traveler’s official station (or telecommuting site) and official residence. For details on mileage that can be reimbursed, refer to Subsections 10.50.20 and 10.50.25.
  • Certain travel expenses are considered as personal and not essential to the transaction of official state business. Such non-reimbursable expenses include, but are not limited to:
  1. Valet services, defined as the hiring of a personal attendant who takes care of the individual's clothes, or helps the individual in dressing, etc. The prohibition against valet services for general travelers is not to be considered as a prohibition against the use of a personal care attendant required by a disabled person under the provisions of Section 10.60.
  2. Entertainment expenses, radio or television rental and other items of a similar nature.
  3. Taxi fares, motor vehicle rental, and other transportation costs to or from places of entertainment and other non-state business locations.
  4. Costs of personal trip insurance (such as personal accident insurance, personal effects insurance, and extended liability insurance), and medical and hospital services.
  5. Personal telephone calls. Agencies are to define business telephone calls as part of its system for management and control over travel as required in Subsection 10.10.10.  Business telephone calls are defined as those calls that are directly work related and are critical and necessary to conducting official state business.
  6. Any tips or gratuities associated with personal expenses such as those listed here.
  7. Out of pocket charges for vehicle service calls caused by the negligence of the traveler. Examples include service charges for the delivery of fuel, retrieval of keys from locked vehicles, jump starting vehicles when the lights have been left on, etc.
  8. Tolls associated with the use of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes.
  9. Fines from appropriate jurisdictions for all parking tickets, citations or infractions received while operating a vehicle on state business (privately owned vehicle, rental vehicle or state owned vehicle). Payment of fines and citations under these circumstances is the sole obligation and responsibility of the traveler and will NOT to be reimbursed or paid by the state. Refer to Subsection 10.10.15.
  10. Reimbursement for use of a privately owned vehicle when a state owned vehicle is available for use.  Additionally, when WSSB is providing transportation to an event and an employee chooses a different mode of transportation, they will not receive reimbursement. (SAAM 10.50.20)

DEFINITIONS

  1. Departure from Official Station - If travel to a destination for the traveler’s own convenience is in advance of the necessary time for arrival, no reimbursement for additional meals or lodging costs shall be paid to the traveler for extra field time incurred. (SAAM 10.20.40b)
  2. Return Trip - Employee’s will return as promptly as possible to either their official station or official residence when state business is completed. (SAAM 10.10.15)  If a traveler remains at the destination following an official meeting or other work assignment for the traveler’s own convenience, no reimbursement for additional meals or lodging costs shall be paid to the traveler for the extra field time incurred. (SAAM 10.20.40c)  Agencies may authorize extra field time if it can be demonstrated that there is a direct savings to the state.  (SAAM 10.20.40e)
  3. Personal/Vacation Time – Employees are allowed to couple personal/vacation time with official state business as long as the following three conditions exist.  (1)The primary purpose of the trip is official state business.  (2)The traveler uses, where necessary, his or her approved leave for the vacation or personal part of the trip.  (3)The state agency does not incur any extra expenses beyond what it would normally. (SAAM 10.20.40d)  Any additional expenses incurred will be paid by the employee. 
  4. Normal Return Night (defined) - That night of travel on which it was anticipated prior to the trip the traveler would return either to the official duty station or official residence after the completion of official state business.
  5. Estimated Return Time - Per diem will be paid until the traveler returns to their official residence or official station on the “normal return night”. (SAAM 10.30.50a)   When travel is extended beyond the “normal return night” or the return from city changes due to personal/vacation time, per diem for the return trip will be estimated as accurately as possible based on travel times to the official destination and the time state business was concluded.
  6. Bordering States – Travel to counties and/or cities in the states of Idaho and Oregon that are contiguous to the border between Washington-Idaho or Washington-Oregon shall not be considered out-of-state.