Sedgwick County scales back cellphone allowances for employees

10/24/2012 3:27 PM

10/24/2012 5:32 PM

The cellphone allowances many Sedgwick County employees receive won’t be as spendy as they’ve been in the past.

Employees who use their cellphones for business will get less money on their paychecks starting next month after commissioners voted Wednesday on a new policy that reduces the allowances.

The Eagle reported earlier this year that the county spent $440,152 on 704 employees’ cellphone allowances last year, compared with the city of Wichita’s $121,090 on 277 employees’ cell allowances. The county’s monthly allowances averaged $52.10 compared with the city’s average of about $36 a month.

Treasurer Linda Kizzire had the highest cellphone allowance last year at $2,043, partly because of an upgrade to a smartphone. The most spent on cellphone use by a non-elected county employee was $1,554, by emergency management director Randy Duncan.

Under the new policy, the highest cellphone allowance will be $18.46 per pay period. County employees get paid every two weeks.

That allowance will go to employees who use their phones at least 70 percent of the time for business.

A second-tier allowance will give employees who use their phones about half the time for business $9.23 per pay period.

Employees who use their phones less than 30 percent for business will not get an allowance. Instead, the county will reimburse those staff members if they incur overage charges for going over their allotted number of minutes.

The county no longer will pay for employees’ phones or other equipment under the new policy.

“That’s a huge deal,” Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan said.

Employees who must respond to e-mails outside of regular business hours and who are required to have remote Internet access will be eligible for data plan allowances of $10.38 per pay period.

A county task force began meeting at the start of the year to review the cellphone policy. Several years ago, the county owned employees’ cellphones and paid the bills for them.

Under the most recent policy, allowances were calculated by taking the monthly bill multiplied by the percentage of business use multiplied by 12 months divided by 26 pay periods.

Commissioners passed the new cellphone policy on their consent agenda with no discussion.

Buchanan said the county reviewed various cellphone carriers’ charges for plans with 450 minutes a month and based the new allowances on those.

Employees who use their phone half the time for business will get about 50 percent of the average charge for a 450-minute plan. Employees with the highest usage will get an allowance that represents about 75 percent of the average cost of a 450-minute plan.

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