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Human Resources Department

Employee Resources

4-9 Policy for Relocation Incentives and Reimbursement Expenses

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Approved: Board of Supervisors
Authority: County Administrator
Resolution: 07-0760
Revised Date: May 25, 2021

Table of Contents

  1. Purpose
  2. Policy
  3. Incentives
  4. Procedures
  5. Responsibilities
  6. References

I. Purpose

To establish criteria and approval authority for the authorization of relocation expense assistance and/or paid leave advancement incentives to support the appointment of qualified employees in selected management and unrepresented positions.

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II. Policy

Relocation expense assistance and paid leave advancement incentives may be authorized for department head, assistant department head, or difficult-to-fill management or unrepresented positions that fulfill a critical need in the County organization. “Difficult to fill” means the County is likely to have difficulty recruiting candidates with the required competencies in the absence of a recruitment or relocation incentive, as determined by the Human Resources Director or designee, and based on consideration of the following factors: the availability and quality of candidates, including the outcome of recent recruitment efforts; the salaries typically paid outside the County for similar positions; recent turnover in similar positions; employment trends and labor-market factors; special or unique competencies required for the position; and any other supporting factors.

This policy is limited to department head, assistant department head, management, and unrepresented allocated, full-time positions and applies to all agencies and special districts for which the Board Of Supervisors Acts as the Board of Directors or Commissioners (hereafter referred to as County) or hiring/appointing authority.

Costs of the relocation expense assistance will be borne by the hiring department. 

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    III. Incentives

    1. Relocation Expense Assistance
      1. New hires* for department head, assistant department head, or difficult-to-fill management and unrepresented positions may be authorized for relocation expense assistance of up to $10,000 to cover reasonable relocation expenses including:
        1. Moving of household items and personal effects. If moving self the following is included: meals and lodging, tolls, and mileage** for distance between old and new residence.
        2. Transportation of one personal vehicle.
        3. Moving Insurance from origin to destination.
        4. Storage of household goods at destination.
        5. Airfare for the relocation of newly hired employee, spouse/partner and dependent children.
        6. Expenses for the new hire’s visit to Sonoma County to secure housing including reasonable: transportation (airfare or mileage**), meals and lodging.
        7. Temporary housing at destination (rent or lease expenses incurred for the temporary housing of the newly hired employee and his/her immediate family).

          *Relocation expense assistance may be authorized for current employees who are expected to relocate to Sonoma County upon appointment to a department head or other key executive position. Assistance will be made in accordance with this policy, with the following exception: the “distance test” outlined under 3.b. below may be waived (please note that waiver of this requirement may affect the taxation of the reimbursement).

          **mileage reimbursed at County and IRS reimbursement rate.
      2. Some examples of relocation expense assistance not authorized by this policy:
        1. Special services such as maid service, carpet service, assembly/disassembly of unusual articles
        2. Transportation of camping or utility trailers, building materials, firewood, landscape materials, animals, boats, or items not considered to be normal household items
        3. Costs associated with the sale or purchase of residences, or forfeiture of deposit, penalty, etc. as a result of breaking or terminating a lease/agreement.
      3. The following criteria must be met in order for the assistance to be authorized:
        1. Human Resources must confirm that the position meets the department head, assistant department head or “difficult to fill” definition.
        2. Candidates must meet the following “distance test”:
          1. The new hire must not be a current Sonoma County employee.
          2. The distance between the new hire’s old residence and their new place of work must be at least 50 miles greater than the distance between the old home and the old place of work.
          3. The new place of residence is within the geographic boundaries of Sonoma County or within a commutable distance in the counties immediately adjacent to Sonoma County.
        3. The County Administrator must confirm that the department’s current budgetary appropriations are sufficient to cover the reimbursement.
      4. Terms of Agreement:
        1. The parties shall enter into an agreement that includes the following:
          1. The employee shall be required to repay 100% of the relocation expense assistance if the employee voluntarily terminates employment within one year (12 months) from the date of hire or appointment into the position and 50% of the relocation expense assistance if the resignation occurs following one year from the date of hire or installment into the position, but prior to completion of the second year.
          2. If the employee is terminated from employment for any reason other than reasonable cause, no repayment will be required; if the employee is terminated for cause (as defined in Civil Service Rule 10, Section10.3, A), repayment will be required according to item 4(a)(i) above.
          3. The repayment of relocation expense assistance under the circumstances described above shall be repaid to the County of Sonoma within 30 days of separation or the County will pursue alternate collection methods.
      5. Relocation expense assistance will be taxed in accordance with applicable federal and state tax requirements at the time expenses are reimbursed. The County will conform with tax changes as necessary to accurately report the employee’s annual taxable income on their W-2. All relocation expense assistance reimbursements made by the County of Sonoma will be included as income and paid to the employee via their regular paycheck with applicable payroll tax deductions applied.

        Candidates/employees are encouraged to check with a tax professional if they have any questions about taxation of relocation expense assistance.
      6. Employees will be responsible for all expenses not authorized in advance by the County and included in the agreement.
    2. Paid Leave Advancement - Vacation and Sick Leave Hours upon Hire
      1. New hires for department head, assistant department head, or difficult to fill management and unrepresented positions may be advanced upon employment:
        1. up to two weeks of vacation and/or two weeks of sick leave for department heads or assistant department heads
        2. up to 24 hours of vacation and/or 24 hours of sick leave for the balance of management or unrepresented employees.

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    IV. Procedure

    1. Request for Approval
      The Department Head or County Administrator shall complete the Relocation Expense Assistance and Paid Leave Advancement Authorization and provide to the Human Resources Director for confirmation that the position meets the criteria established in this policy. Human Resources will forward approved requests to the County Administrator for budgetary approval. Prior to any formal offer of incentives, departments must have approval from Human Resources and the County Administrator.
    2. Agreement with Employee
      The Relocation Expense Assistance Agreement shall be executed by the employee and Human Resources Director, prior to the employee’s first day of employment and prior to any approval of expenses. Departments must retain the original copy of the executed Relocation Expense Assistance Agreement in the employee’s personnel file.

      Human Resources recommends that details of the relocation expense assistance and/or paid leave advancement incentives be included in the offer of employment letter and, if applicable, a copy of the executed Relocation Expense Assistance and Paid Leave Advancement Authorization be attached.
    3. Relocation Expense Assistance Processing
      1. Within 60 days of the date expenses are incurred, and after the employee has begun working for the County, the employee must submit a Relocation Expense Assistance Reimbursement form and applicable receipts to their department payroll clerk.
      2. The department should submit the completed Relocation Expense Assistance Reimbursement Form and receipts with copies of the approved Relocation Expense Assistance and Paid Leave Advancement Authorization and executed Relocation Expense Assistance Agreement to Auditor Payroll Division for processing.
    4. Paid Leave Advancement Processing
      1. The Human Resource Director, County Administrator or designee, or Department Head should instruct department payroll staff to submit an approved copy of the Relocation Expense Assistance and Paid Leave Advancement Authorization Form to the Auditor Payroll Division for processing once the employee has been hired.
    5. Documents The following documents used in conjunction with this policy are located:

      Human Resources Department, Hiring Process Sharepoint site:
      1. Relocation Expense Assistance and Paid Leave Advancement Authorization
      2. Relocation Expense Assistance Agreement

      Auditor-Controller Payroll Division’s Internet site:
      1. Relocation Expense Assistance Reimbursement Form

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    V. Responsibilities

    Human Resources: Human Resources is responsible for policy interpretation, application, and determination that the criteria established by this policy has been met.

    County Administrator: The County Administrator is responsible for approving the expenditure of budgetary appropriations.

    Department Heads: Department/agency heads are responsible for ensuring the appropriate application of this policy within their department/agency, and for ensuring required procedures are followed.

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