Anoka County is overhauling its financial policies, revising and amending everything from construction projects to cell phones, from purchasing properties to purchasing employees' meals.

Thirty-four pages of changes -- defining policies for operating budgets, investments, purchases, the use of wireless devices and meal taxability -- were approved by a county board eager to follow suggested federal guidelines.

"We review the policy every year," Cevin Petersen, the county's finance and central services division manager, told the board. "Times change. And people and management styles change."

The goal is to make the county's financial policy as efficient as possible while empowering departments as they handle business, Petersen said.

For instance, "there were a group of contracts that were in no-man's land," Petersen told the board.

Petersen was talking about how some contracts slipped through the cracks, avoiding classification because they were too large or small to fit certain categories. But Petersen also spoke of policies that had never before been considered.

Cell phones were a hot topic -- and the new policy about using county cell phones had plenty of folks talking.

County employees have the option of using a cell phone (or other wireless device) for county business only, or for personal and county use. The employee is responsible for personal costs and can subscribe to plans that vary in accordance to the amount of personal use. There are personal-use plans that cover 10, 25 or 50 percent of the total cell phone use.

"A county employee no longer has to carry two or three cell phones -- one for county use and the other, or others, for personal use," Petersen said. "The goal is to be more efficient."

The Meal Taxability Policy states that meals are generally considered a personal expense of employees, but there are exceptions, according to the new guidelines.

Two examples: Meals are considered county expenses if the only time available for meeting is during a meal period. Or, a meal is an expense if the only way to continue a meeting is to do so by including a meal, rather than breaking up to go to lunch.

Alcoholic beverages or employee holiday parties and social events are not included among county-authorized meals.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419