County committee votes to recommend rescinding mileage policy

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Members of the Government Operations committee of the Cortland County Legislature on Tuesday voted to recommend rescinding the recent mileage policy for elected officials.

The policy superseded an 8-year-old rule that allowed legislators to get reimbursements for their travel expenses up to $1,200 for trips to meet constituents within their district and for meetings outside their district. The policy approved via a vote of 10-7 in January abolished a cap on reimbursements and also allowed legislators to expense the commute to the Cortland County office building in the city of Cortland.

The committee voted unanimously to rescind the policy, reverting back to the cap and disallowing legislators to get reimbursed for going to the county office building. 

Legislator Cathy Bischoff (D-LD-3) asked committee members to consider the case of legislators who live in districts far from the city of Cortland. Such is the case of legislator Mitchell Eccleston (R-LD-17) from the Cincinnatus area, who said it can cost up to $500 a year in gas to come and go to the county building. 

“That doesn’t include wear and tear in my vehicle,” he said. “Then everybody else has got to take a $500 cut because I believe in equality. It costs me more money to do the same job.”

County clerk Elizabeth Larkin said employees are not happy with the county’s implementation of the January policy.

“My employees are rather upset by it,” she said. “They feel an inequity from the legislators to the employees to the county. There is resentment from county employees.”

Legislative Minority Leader Beau Harbin, who did not support the January policy, said one of the principles of the policy is that there should be no distinction between what county employees and elected officials can be reimbursed for in terms of commuting.

“(The policy) is clear to ourselves and to our employees that there are no exceptions,” he said.

Rescinding the policy will go to a final vote at the county legislative session at 6 p.m. March 23.