Mehlville board shaves mileage reimbursement rate

Franz says he would prefer a fixed rate reimbursement.

By EVAN YOUNG

The Mehlville school board voted recently to shave the district’s mileage reimbursement rate to a fraction of the federal standard.

The Board of Education on June 28 voted 5-1 in favor of adjusting the district’s mileage reimbursement rate on July 1 of every year to a rate equal to two-thirds of the Internal Revenue Service’s allowable rate in effect at the time.

Board member Rich Franz was opposed.

Mehlville previously reimbursed employees at the IRS allowable rate.

But for the 2011-2012 school year, the district will reimburse employees roughly 37 cents per mile — two-thirds the IRS rate of 55.5 cents per mile that took effect July 1.

Officials first proposed revising the district’s mileage policy last year while crafting a contingency plan to address potential budget issues. The plan at the time called for establishing a fixed reimbursement rate of 25 cents per mile for an annual cost reduction of $20,000. But the issue was tabled May 19 after some board members said they were concerned about how the reduced rate would affect teachers, such as literacy coaches, who travel to multiple schools in the district every day.

“That was put on the contingency plan when gas prices were more in the $2.75 range. Since then they’ve gone to $4 and now they’re back down to three and a quarter. So it’s kind of hard to predict what they’re going to be, but I think some of the discussion at the last meeting concerned maybe that that was too much of a cut,” Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch told the board June 28.

Knobloch said the district spent roughly $40,000 on mileage reimbursements in fiscal year 2011. He estimated the district would save $10,000 to $12,000 a year under the revised mileage policy.

Franz told the Call he would’ve preferred a fixed reimbursement rate similar to the 25 cents per mile initially proposed. He noted district employees already can claim mileage deductions on their income taxes.

“If we tie our reimbursement amount to what the IRS is allowing, then we’re at the mercy of the federal government as to what they think is appropriate for reimbursement, and I’m uncomfortable with that,” Franz said. “I think not only should the reimbursement amount be something that’s fair and equitable, but it should be something that breaks in favor of the school district as much as possible because like I’ve said many times … I was elected to be a watchdog for the taxpayers’ buck. And I think 25 cents (per mile) gets us closer to where the taxpayers want us to be on that particular issue.”