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City council updates spending policy
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The Dawsonville City Council on Monday voted unanimously to revise its current financial policy to move toward a spending reimbursement system rather than the use of the municipality issued credit cards.

The change is in line with a state mandate that took effect on July 1 and requires elected officials to itemize expenses that they ensue during their public duties, such as the cost of travel, meals and expenditures associated with training.

Previously, members of the Dawsonville City Council had been issued a credit card to cover such expenses.

In accordance with the city's new policy and state law, those credit cards are no longer available for the elected officials to use.

Councilwoman Angie Smith said she believes the financial policy updates were needed and are a means of taking the guesswork out of the process.

"It needed to be more ironclad. The rules that we had were not straight forward enough," she said Monday.

The new policy specifically states that council members will be given a per diem of $40 per day for food expenses if an overnight stay is required for the training, or $20 for day training trips.

"What that will mean is when we get back from a training, we'll turn in an expense report of just how many overnight days we spent there and we will get $40 a day reimbursement for those," Smith said. "And if we spend $60, we have to cover $20 on our own."

The new policy also states that alcoholic beverages are not eligible for reimbursement.

In her personal review of expenses by city elected officials, Smith said she saw "things that were turned in that looked improper to me."

However, with the city's "broad financial policy," as she called it, Smith said she couldn't say anything was mishandled.

"We've got to be held, in government, to a higher standard," she said. "I'm trying to do things right for the city because the way we spend money, I believe we are accountable to the people."

Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan said while the city council, as a whole, is always looking for ways to improve standards, he doesn't feel that the new policies are any more stringent than before, "if you follow the rules."

"We have done a great job of controlling expenses and spending while receiving excellent reports from the auditors each of the last four years," he said.

"We were making some minor adjustments to the present policy and the issue with credit cards came up because of a new bill passed in the house. We figured we may as well address that at the same time."