It didn’t surprise me that two small but very symbolic issues attracted little media attention during a recent 13-hour budget meeting where Kitchener councillors grappled with some multi-million-dollar issues.
What did come as a very unpleasant surprise was that both issues — additional money for a leisure access subsidy program that helps low-income kids, seniors and adults as well as a proposed reduction to excessive home-0ffice furniture and tech’ allowances for councillors — were scrapped by a majority of councillors.
On the issue of leisure subsidies, councillors rejected my motion to add $10,000 to a total approved budget of $161,929 for a program that, last year, helped 4,442 children, seniors and adults.
The rapidly increasing cost of the program has, for years, been under-funded, counting on the precarious generosity of private funders like Jumpstart and a (wishful-thinking) pledge that no needy person will ever be turned away…..something I will be scrutinizing closely in the coming year.
Those who rejected the $10,000 motion were: John Gazzola, Zyg Janecki, Yvonne Fernandes, Scott Davey, Kelly Galloway-Sealock, Paul Singh and Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.
Those who supported the motion were Couns. Sarah Marsh, Dave Schnider and Bil Ioannidis.
On the subject of home-office expenses — something I have tried numerous times to cut during past years — I supported a commendable move by Coun. Schnider to reduce four-year capital allowances for each councillor from $5,301 to $4,000 and use savings to help councillors better communicate with residents.
But in a 6-5 vote, Marsh, Janecki, Fernandes, Ioannidis and Singh supported a motion from Gazzola to maintain the status quo $5,301. I joined Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Galloway-Sealock, Davey and Schnider to oppose the move.
It’s worth noting that, in the past four-year term, Gazzola spent $5,291 on office expenses compared to other councillors who spent between $180 and $4,657.