FIN-6.14 - Non-travel Meals, Light Refreshments and Related Miscellaneous Expenses

Binding City Policies (BCP)
Policy number


The purpose of this administrative rule is to establish minimum standards for the City payment or reimbursement of reasonable expenses incurred in the course of official City business not associated with travel. Expenses incurred under this policy will be appropriate to the circumstances and consistent with the best interests of the City and the Portland community.

General Guidelines

1. City employees are generally expected to provide their own food and beverages while attending meetings, including offsite meetings and trainings, for which no out-of-town, overnight travel is required.

2. This administrative rule governs Non-travel Food and Related Expenses regardless of funding source or method of payment. However, departments or programs funded by federal or state funds may have stricter guidelines and regulations that would supersede this rule. This administrative rule does not prevent City Bureau or Departmental approval of lower expense limits or prevent additional approval requirements.

3. This administrative rule applies whether the expense is paid through P-card, direct invoice, petty cash, or employee reimbursement.

4. Food and beverages that are provided in accordance with labor agreements shall follow guidelines set forth in those agreements.

5. Any food and beverage or related miscellaneous expense that are allowable under this policy and are over $100 require written pre-authorization from the Bureau Director or their designee.

6. Food and beverage expenses are per person and shall not exceed the GSA Per Diem rates for Portland, Oregon, based on the meal being provided.

7. The following items fall outside the scope of this administrative rule:

a. Expenses relating to lobbying activities (addressed in ARA 15.01);

b. Expenses relating to retirement awards and celebrations provided as recognition for valued employees as addressed in HRAR 4.07; and

c. Clothing items provided to employees in accordance with bargaining agreements (addressed in FIN 6.05).


A. Employees

1. Non-travel related food and beverage expenses for Employees are allowable when one or more of the following requirements are met:

a. Meeting, training, or event where more than 50% of participants are non-City employees;

b. Meeting, training, or event for which continuous participation is required for a period beyond four hours, including events of an urgent unplanned or unexpected nature and declared emergencies;

c. Meeting, training, or event at an offsite facility where food is included or use of the facility caterer is required as part of the facility rental;

d. Meeting, training, or event at a location where participants cannot reasonably be expected to obtain and consume a meal within one hour on their own because food service options are limited or unavailable;

e. Meeting of a professional, non-discriminatory civic or non-profit organization for which meal is included as part of the cost of attendance and for which there is a direct and specific benefit to the City; or

f. Meeting or event recognizing the valuable contributions of City employees. These meetings or events are to be infrequent (i.e. annual, semi-annual or at the end of a significant project vs. a weekly or monthly employee meeting); or

g. Training which directly advances City or bureau strategic plans, mission, or goals and which has either City-wide or bureau-wide invitation to participate.

2. The following miscellaneous expenses may be allowed for Employees at bureau discretion, as long as benefit to the City can be clearly demonstrated and documented:

a. Dues for professional or trade organizations;

b. Dues for non-discriminatory civic or non-profit organizations. Note that only dues are allowable; other costs such as meals not included with dues, fines, or personal assessments are not allowable;

c. Tickets to events of non-discriminatory civic or non-profit organizations if participation has a direct and specific benefit to the City;

d. Business-related newspaper, magazine, and web-based subscriptions;

e. Plants and plant care for public common areas such as building foyers;

f. First aid supplies;

g. Emergency supplies; and

h. Transit fares, parking fees, private vehicle miles, taxi, or ride-hailing service fees, provided that these expenses are directly related to a meeting, training, or event at a location to which the employee does not regularly report. Such expenses must clearly demonstrate that they provide direct and specific benefit to the City. Expenses related to typical employee work commutes are not allowed.

B. Members of the Public and Volunteers

1. Food and beverage expenses for Members of the Public, Volunteers, and employees staffing the meeting, training, or event, are allowable for the following reasons, at the discretion of the Bureau Director or designee:

a. Meetings of boards, commissions, or advisory committees created by City Charter or City Council;

b. Other City-sponsored meetings in which more than 50% of attendees are members of the public; or

c. City-sponsored volunteer recognition events.

2. As appropriate, and where budgeted funds are available, the City may pay or reimburse the following Public or Volunteer expenses:

a. Transit fares;

b. Parking fees;

c. Private vehicle mileage; and

d. Taxi or ride-hailing service fees.

C. Elected Officials and Bureau Directors

1. In general, Elected Officials, Bureau Directors, and designees are expected to follow this policy as described in the Employees section. However, they have additional allowable expenses, including:

a. Food and beverage expenses for informal City Council meetings, work sessions, and other meetings as designated by the Mayor;

b. Food and beverage expenses for Elected Official or designee relating to promotion of economic development, building community cooperation, or information gathering, so long as such expenses can be clearly demonstrated to provide benefit to the public interest;

c. Expenses related to international delegations or events; and

d. Reasonable expenses related to expressions of community-wide sympathy.

2. Elected City officials or their offices may be reimbursed for other related miscellaneous expenses as long as such expenses can be demonstrated to benefit public interest, as per HRAR 4.0711.01, and 11.02.

D. Prohibited Expenses

1. Prohibited expenses include, but are not limited to, the following:

a. Alcoholic beverages;

b. Personal expenses;

c. Food and beverages for regularly reoccurring staff meetings;

d. Food and beverages, cards, decorations, utensils, serving dishes, containers for social events such as celebrating holidays, birthdays, or employee promotions and transfers;

e. Personal work-space comfort items such as space heaters, fans, etc. shall not be authorized or purchased directly by the bureau but instead, requests for such items shall be referred to Facilities for appropriate resolution.

2. Bureaus may create bureau-specific policies with additional prohibited expenses.


1. “Elected Official” means the Mayor, Council Members, City Auditor and their designated representative.

2. “Employee” means any represented and non-represented employee. The term employee may also refer to an individual in a temporary or contracted position.

3. “Related miscellaneous expense” means incidental non-travel expense incurred in conjunction with the conduct of official City business.

4. “Private vehicle mileage” means local travel, not out of town overnight expense incurred in conjunction with the conduct of official City business.

5. “Volunteer” means an individual who performs hours of service for the City for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.


Authority for this administrative rule is established in the City Charter and the City Code. This administrative rule has been approved by the City Council.


The Accounting Division of the Bureau of Revenue and Financial Services of the Office of Management and Finance (Accounting Division) will periodically monitor bureaus to assess compliance with this rule. If instances of non-compliance are identified, bureaus will be required to develop and implement a corrective action plan. The Accounting Division will provide assistance to bureaus, if requested, to develop this plan. The Controller will report all instances of non-compliance annually to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and City Council.


1. Expenses related to this policy shall be recorded to appropriate account numbers assigned by the Accounting Division.

2. Payments or reimbursements related to this policy shall be issued for actual costs substantiated by the following documentation:

a. If expense is over $100, written pre-authorization from Bureau Director or their designee;

b. Original receipt or contemporaneous record with date;

c. Cost of food, beverage, or miscellaneous expense;

d. Location of meal or meeting;

e. Copy of agenda including location for meeting, training, or event (if applicable);

f. Business purpose of expense demonstrating benefit to City; and

g. Listing of names and business relationships of individuals for whom food, beverage, or other items are being provided at City expense. For events such as open houses where specific names cannot be obtained, an estimate of the number of members of the public or volunteers in attendance shall be provided.

3. Local mileage is substantiated with odometer reading for beginning and ending mileage. If odometer reading cannot be obtained a printout from an online mapping program, such as Google Maps, confirming miles between locations may be used.

4. The Accounting Division may establish a City-wide procedure for the processing, recording, documentation, and payment of such expenses and may require the use of a standardized form for this purpose.


Emergency Ordinance No. 181046, passed by City Council June 13, 2007 and effective July 1, 2007.

Amended by Chief Financial Officer August 6, 2020.

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