RIVERSIDE, CA - Department heads in Riverside County, Calif., government will no longer be eligible to use county-owned cars for business or pleasure under a policy approved last week by the Board of Supervisors, according to Southwest Riverside News Network.

In a 5-0 vote, the board agreed to change the county's Executive Vehicle Benefit policy so that managers utilize their own automobiles, though they will continue to receive reimbursement from the county for business-related travel.

The change will affect 14 executives, according to county Purchasing & Fleet Services Department chief Bob Howdyshell.

Board members and other elected officials will have the option of continuing to use county-owned vehicles or driving their own, with a monthly stipend of $550 to offset the costs of maintenance and gas.

Elected officials driving their own autos will continue to be reimbursed for mileage at the federally-approved rate of 50 cents per mile, which kicks in after the first 600 miles driven, according to the Department of Human Resources.

The new policy requires detailed record-keeping to distinguish between travel for business and pleasure for tax purposes, county officials said.

A proposal was put forth to increase the monthly stipend to $850 per month, but Supervisor Bob Buster opposed the fatter monthly payout.

"This is another way the top leads the way to restructuring pay and benefits and also reflects what our longer-term financial situation is," the supervisor said.

Supervisors Jeff Stone and John Benoit supported the new policy, while emphasizing their desire to retain county-owned vehicles, citing the thousands of miles they log in county-related travel each month.

Benoit said he would put 7,000 miles on his car this month alone.

"This is an interesting discussion and one that's important to have trying to reduce the costs of the county," he said. "I'm trying to do all I can in that regard. But there's a lot of travel involved in doing the job I was elected to do."

The new policy will not affect employees who drive county vehicles. A year ago, the number of take-home cars was estimated at 1,000. The latest figures were not immediately available, according to the Southwest Riverside News Network.