Cost of councillor conferences

First off, I would say that I recognize the potential learning experience gained from some conferences attended by councillors.

At the same time, I believe the amount of money council approves for conferences and the apparent lack of control on cash spent by some councillors at these events should have been addressed years ago.

This once again became apparent in the annual statement of councillors’ remuneration for 2013 presented recently at council. The legally-required statement lists our salaries as well as taxpayer cash spent at conferences, councillor mileage claims as well as money spent on technology needs for home offices. The document also includes the value of free tickets and golf passes.
The remuneration statement — always left until the last item of any council agenda (past media deadlines for the following day) — is presented as information-only and little debate usually takes place.
This year, referring to conference, home-office and access to tickets and passes, I quoted a few spending examples and gave notice I would be bringing a future motion to, once again, try to control spending by some councillors. I pointed out that councillors spent almost $50,000 attending conferences in 2013 and, so far this four-year term, have spent $136,000 on similar events.
Supported by Coun. Scott Davey, I outlined what troubles me the most with conferences — the fact that while some councillors go to great lengths to control their expenses, others move in quickly to soak up and spend those savings. This is because, while some councillors attend one or two Canadian events, three conferences a year are allowed across North America.
Looking at the top two council spenders, I can’t accept the fact that one spent $8,558 attending three conferences in 2013 while a second councillor spent $7,002 attending similar events in California, Chicago and Vancouver. For names and complete spending lists for 2011, 2012 and 2013 go to http://www.kitchener.ca/en/insidecityhall/RemunerationAndExpenses.asp.
Hopefully, Coun Davey’s past motion to set an annual or 4-year spending limit for each councillor will, next term, help address the fact that while some councillors exercise spending restraint (check the statements), others spend much more than their share of council’s annual conference budget.
That policy change would mean each councillor has about $14,800 to spend on conferences during each 4-year term or $3,700 each year, This means the top spender on council would have been about $5,000 over his limit so far this term because he spent in excess of $20,000 on conferences in the past 3 years. The second top spender would be about $3,100 over his share of the new conference budget because, so far this term, he has spent $17,947 on conferences.
I’m also troubled by some councillors ongoing use of free tickets and passes (also documented).
Hopefully, in this election year, I will get more council support for reductions than I have received so far this term.

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