February 6, 2014
(West Palm Beach, FL) - The City of West Palm Beach is changing the way it provides cell phone services to its employees.
Following in the footsteps of other local governments, the city has decided to no longer issue a city-owned cell phone to the majority of employees who currently have one. A new city policy now provides for a stipend to qualified employees to use their personal phones for city business.
Previously, employees who were issued a city-owned cell phone were required to reimburse the city twenty-five cents for each call unrelated to city business. With the migration of cell providers to unlimited calling plans, that policy was judged to be outdated, and officials had been looking to change the policy for the past year.
That examination was accelerated following the discovery that some employees were not itemizing their bills or reimbursing the city.
The new policy requires any employee to prove they have a “strong operational need” to use a cell phone for city business, and it sets up a strict list of criteria that must be met in order to be eligible for a stipend. The stipend amounts are $25/month for voice-only phones, and $50/month for voice and date phones.
The policy also requires that each employee be reviewed at least twice per year to ensure their job continues to require a cell phone. If it is found they no longer meet the criteria, they will no longer receive a stipend.
“This is going to be a much easier, more manageable process,” said West Palm Beach Deputy City Administrator Dorritt Miller. “We’ve increased accountability. We’ve raised the bar on whether an employee even needs a phone. And finally, while we won’t know an exact dollars amount until we complete the switchover, we expect to save money once the process is complete.”
As part of rolling out the new policy, the city says it anticipates a large number of employees who currently have a city-issued phone will not receive a stipend at all, based on the needs of their job.
Not all city-owned phones will be disconnected, however. A small number of employees will continue to have a city-owned phone because of the nature of their job. For example, police officers will continue to be issued a city-owned phone in order to protect their personal numbers from being given out.
The policy was signed and approved on January 31st, 2014.