Use councillor perk to help low-income families

As you read this, councillors are immersed in budget meetings, trying to find ways to control taxes while maintaining services.

It’s during this budgetary balancing act  I compare items like the home-office technology allowance for councillors with Kitchener’s fair-access subsidy program for low-income families.

The home-office allowance provides each council member with $5,300 during a four-year term to pay for BlackBerry and home-tech’ devices that can also include digital cameras and laptops.The allowance also budgets $14,700 home-office operating expenses during each term. That’s a total $20,000 available but not always used by each council member.

In contrast, fair-access cards this year helped 3,460 children, adults and seniors better afford the city’s recreational activities.

Every year I have watched council end up with large balances in the home-tech’ budget, partly because, each year, technology-devices cost less. The surplus also has very much to do with the fact some councillors exercise greater restraint than others when it comes to buying high-tech’ toys.

Because I believe council should lead by example I try every year — with very limited success — to trim that home-tech’ budget.

When councillors recently reviewed fees for recreational services, I requested information on the fair-access program. Staff asked council to  approve an extra $10,000 for the program which, this year, is already $29,469 over budget.

Because I’m convinced home-technology allowances are too high and the fair-access budget is way too low, I will ask councillors to increase that $10,000 to at least $20,000 when we make final budget decisions  Jan. 30.

And, because 2014 is a municipal election year, perhaps I will be more successful when I once again recommend a modest $1,000 reduction to the bloated home-tech’ budget allowed each council member.

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