As one California county is making $36 million in cuts to close a $126 million deficit in the 2010-11 fiscal year, a grand jury report states that the county could save up to $1.7 million per year by reimbursing employees for driving their own cars rather than assigning them county-owned vehicles, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Stating the San Mateo County's vehicle fleet is "too large, not cost effective and has no comprehensive oversight," the grand jury's 16-page report recommends the county add cars assigned to specific employees or departments to the general motor pool, except sheriff's patrol cars and other special vehicles.

The report also recommends that the county reduce vehicle allowances of up to $13,000 per year given to county supervisors and some employees, reconsider which employees are allowed to take cars home overnight, and consider using software to better manage the fleet.

Examining vehicle costs in the 2008-09 fiscal year, the grand jury found the county spent about $3.1 million for 556 vehicles assigned to specific people or departments. With the assigned vehicles being driven an average of 10,000 miles per year, the average cost per mile was 85 cents. The county could have saved $1.7 million if it had instead paid the employees the IRS rate of 55 cents per mile for driving their own cars, the report found.

The grand jury took aim at vehicle allowances, which totaled $639,994 in payments to 67 county employees in lieu of an assigned car. The grand jury said the county should set the car allowances at the average of the other four Bay Area counties, which have lower allowances and only give cars to department heads.

Other grand jury recommendations are that the entire fleet should be surveyed annually to determine which cars should be reassigned or sold; the county should annually reassess the 84 employees who take county vehicles home overnight; and officials should develop a method of verifying the mileage reported by employees driving their own cars.