Employee Development Fund (EDF): Ways to Get the Most Out of the Hard-Won Benefit

Several years ago, we negotiated with the city to increase the amount of funds available to members from for your professional development from to to total from $500,000 to $750,000, and from $1,500 to $2,000 per person per fiscal year. We recently filed and won multiple big grievances on the myriad of problems members had with EDF, including not getting reimbursed even once members had been approved.

Since then, we’ve been able to systematically improve the professional development resources available to us over the last few years. However, this means EDF is more in demand than ever, and the total pool of $750,000 is likely to run out even sooner.  Last year, the EDF ran out funds in March, and it may run out even earlier this year.

Here are some tips to help you maximize the likelihood of successful pre-approval:

1)    Get pre-approved early in the fiscal year!  Once you get pre-approved, you “encumber” (hold) what you apply for, up to $2,000, which means you don’t have to worry about the fund running out of money early.

2)    If the course, conference, or other eligible EDF expense happens later in the fiscal year (i.e. after January 2018), it’s a little harder to get pre-approved early in the fiscal year, but not impossible.  There may not be an agenda or cost estimate for your EDF expense available early on in the fiscal year, but get creative; many of our members write to organizations that they have taken classes from before and ask what they may be offering and the costs even before the formal schedule is published.  The same applies for professional organization dues; you don’t need to wait for a bill to get pre-approved!  Many of our members write emails to the organization early in the fiscal year and ask them to confirm the expected dues, and then use that to secure pre-approval.

3)    Don’t think that if EDF runs out of funds, you can just wait until the next fiscal year to get approved. You can’t—expenses need to be handled in the same fiscal year as when you incurred them.

There’s more info about the approval and reimbursement process here: http://sfdhr.org/online-tuition-reimbursement-process. Local 21doesn’t handle any part of the approval or reimbursement process; that is handled solely by Department of Human Resources and your department.  We just negotiate for the money in the program and make sure that the program is working per our contract (pages 63-65).

The city also has a program where city employees can get free or reduced cost classes through City University. The portion of the City University class that you have to pay for is eligible for EDF reimbursement.  For example, if you were approved to take a course City University and did so through SFSU, only 2/3 of the course cost is paid by your employer.  The other 1/3 you’d either need to pay for yourself, or you could get pre-approved and reimbursed through the EDF.  If you did the latter, the course would be completely free!

We hope this helps you best utilize this negotiated benefit. Let us know if you have any questions or other tips that you think we should share.