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“Your Mileage May Vary”

MSB Mayor & Assembly Members’ travel/mileage reimbursement amounts for FY2020

The amounts varied from a low of ZERO to a high of $9,613.37. Scroll down to see the specific reimbursement amounts for each elected official for FY2020.

Background:

The Mat-Su Borough Assembly members are each paid $13,300 per year plus they are granted employee benefits (health insurance primarily – which costs $23,300 per member per year) for their service.

Assembly members are also entitled to reimbursement for “mileage and expenses which are reasonable and necessary in connection with assembly meetings and regular assembly functions.” This means travel costs within the Mat-Su Valley.

They are also entitled to a one-seventh share of the assembly’s annual out of borough travel budget. This generally applies to their trips to Juneau and/or Wash, DC. It sometimes applies to other trips such as national conventions and/or “economic development” trips to China and Japan.

The MSB Mayor is paid $29,975 per year plus benefits. Note: The Deputy Mayor who is appointed by the Mayor but is also an Assembly member is paid $15,100 per year.

Like the Assembly members, the mayor is allowed reimbursement for mileage and expenses “which are reasonable and necessary in connection with assembly meetings and regular borough functions” – i.e. travel within the Mat-Su Valley – PLUS he is provided a budget for out of borough travel.

Here is the FY2020 approved budget for the Assembly members.

$17,000 is budgeted for mileage within the borough (plus another $500 for expenses). This amount is not required to be divided evenly between the seven Assembly members. $26,000 is budgeted for Expenses/Travel outside of the borough. This line item is required to be divided evenly. Thus, each Assembly member is allotted $3714.28 for travel outside the MSB. They can donate/give some or all of their share to another Assembly member if they choose to do so.

Here is the approved FY2020 budget for the Mayor.

The Mayor is allowed up to $7500 in mileage reimbursements plus up to $800 in expense reimbursements foe travel/work within the borough. This amount is more than what is allowed for the Assembly members (the seven Assembly members share 17K for mileage within the borough) which makes sense because the Mayor has more duties and attends many more functions than the Assembly members. His budget for out of borough travel is $4800, which is just a bit more than each Assembly member is allowed.

The FY20 budget year ends today – June 30, 2020.

The new online checkbook shows that there is a wide disparity in how much the Mayor and Assembly members receive in mileage reimbursements from the MSB.

NOTE: The online checkbook is only showing mileage reimbursements for the Assembly members as these are paid out to them via check. This is primarily “within the borough” travel. Most of the out of borough travel (plane tickets; restaurant meals; hotels) is paid for via the MSB credit cards; it is not reimbursed directly to the Mayor or Assembly members, so I do not have a breakdown of the fy20 out of borough expenses for each Assembly member and the mayor yet.

Factors to consider when evaluating the mileage reimbursement amounts are:

The MSB is large and a couple of the Assembly members live much further away than other Assembly members. Tam Boeve lives in Willow. Dan Mayfield lives in Big Lake. Mayor Vern Halter also lives in Willow. The Butte District (which was represented by Jim Sykes until Nov 2019 but is now represented by Tim Hale) is fairly close to the main MSB building but it also encompasses Glacier View and Lake Louise, which are located far up the Glenn highway.

Some Assembly members choose to attend many more non-Assembly meetings than other Assembly members. These other types of meetings are: Road Service Area boards, Fire Service Area boards, Community Councils meetings, Planning Commission, Port Commission etc.

Some Assembly members choose to drive into the Dorothy Jones Admin building often – even on non-Assembly meeting days – to do work in their Assembly offices and/or meet with the Manager, Attorney, and Dept heads.

Some Assembly members do not bother to put in request for mileage or expense reimbursements. The clerk automatically sends out mileage checks for in person attendance at Assembly meetings but it is up to each Assembly member to submit request for reimbursements for other meetings and Assembly related travel.

The MSB pays mileage reimbursements at the IRS’s rate of 58 cents per mile.

It is possible to make a bit of money from mileage reimbursements. Here is why: mileage reimbursements are not taxable. If a vehicle averages 20 miles per gallon and gas prices average $3.00 per gallon, then the cost of driving is only 15 cents per mile which is significantly less than the reimbursement rate of 58 cents per mile. Thus, it is possible to make 43 cents per mile from gas reimbursements. (Even an old truck that gets only 10 mpg only costs 30 cents a mile in gas and thus the profit there would be 28 cents per mile driven.) Of course, these figures do not include the cost of the vehicle itself, wear and tear, and insurance etc.

The current average gas price in the Mat-Su Valley range from approximately $2.25 to $3.00 per gallon. Gas was closer to $3.00/gallon during most of Fy2020; it has dropped significantly in recent months.

Mayor Vern Halter’s reimbursements for FY2020:

Mayor Vern Halter had a total of $3,279.16 in mileage reimbursements for FY2020. (Note: the Mayor travels to Juneau and Wash DC but those expenses are put on a MSB credit card.)

The MSB Assembly members’ reimbursements for FY2020 from lowest to highest:

Stephanie Nowers began her service in November 2019 and so far, she has had no reimbursements. ZERO.

Matthew Beck (District 2 – Stephanie Nowers’ predecessor) – served in FY2020 from July 1st 2019 until November 2019 when his term ended.

He had $27.84 in reimbursements.

Tim Hale was reimbursed $150 for some sort of training/conference fee. So far, he has had no gas mileage reimbursements. His service began in Nov 2019 when he took Jim Sykes’ seat.

Jesse Sumner had $554.39 in mileage reimbursements (which I believe is for Assembly meetings but no other meetings/travel within the MSB. The reason is – he got one check per month which is the check the MSB issues automatically for Assembly meeting mileage. When an Assembly member submits a request for reimbursement for additional work/meetings, a separate check issues that month. Note: Jesse also paid for his own travel expenses to Juneau this year):

Ted Leonard had $554.65 in mileage reimbursements, which seems to be for Assembly meetings only but no other reimbursements for meetings/travel within the MSB:

George McKee had $608.09 in mileage reimbursements, which also appears to be the regular Assembly meeting reimbursements.

Jim Sykes (The Butte, Lazy Mountain and Glacier View rep whose term ended in November 2019) had $1,154.99 in mileage reimbursements:

Dan Mayfield, who represents the Big Lake and Point Mac areas), had $3925.08 in mileage reimbursements:

The breakdown for Mayfield’s reimbursements per month:

Tam Boeve, who represents the Willow area, had $9,613.37 in mileage reimbursements for FY2020.

Here are the reimbursements by month:

Muckracker Math:

A mileage reimbursement amount of $9,613.37 equals about 16,600 miles driven in the fiscal year 2020. That is 1383.3 miles per month.

It is 49 miles from Willow to Palmer. So the round trip mileage is 90. Let’s call it 100 even because I am not sure exactly where Ms. Boeve resides in Willow.

16,600 divided by 100 miles equals 166 round trips per year from Willow to Palmer. This is also equivalent to 13.8 (or almost 14) 100 mile trips per month.

Obviously, not all of the mileage driven is from Willow to Palmer, the borough seat. Some may be to other communities in District 7, such as Talkeetna and Trapper Creek etc, which are also a ways away from Willow. But some meetings Ms. Boeve attends are in the Willow area.

Any way you look at it, almost $10,000 in a year of mileage reimbursements is a LOT compared to the rest of the Assembly members.

Mayor Halter also resides in Willow but his mileage reimbursements was $3,279.16 OR only one-third of Ms. Boeve’s total amount of reimbursements.

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