On the money: We put expense accounts of municipal politicians under microscope

On the money: We put expense accounts of municipal politicians under microscope

Annual report reveals how much our municipal politicians earn and spend – and we ask them why some expense accounts seem to have skyrocketed

Surrey Now July 26, 2012
Detailing all employee wages over $75,000 and all public contracts over $25,000, the provincially-mandated Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report is released every summer and this week, the Now has collected some of those key numbers out of the reports from the City of Surrey, the City of White Rock and the Corporation of Delta.

Detailing all employee wages over $75,000 and all public contracts over $25,000, the provincially-mandated Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report is released every summer and this week, the Now has collected some of those key numbers out of the reports from the City of Surrey, the City of White Rock and the Corporation of Delta.

Photograph by: submitted , for Surrey NOW

They are some of the most publicly-scrutinized costs associated with being a public worker and now, the 2011 expenses and salaries of municipal councillors and workers are available to the public for all to see.

As part of the provincially-mandated Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report, the numbers show how much people were paid, how much was claimed in expenses as well as how well or poorly the municipality was doing at the end of any given year.

Detailing all employee wages over $75,000 and all public contracts over $25,000, the reports are released every summer and this week, the Now has collected some of those key numbers out of the reports from the City of Surrey, the City of White Rock and the Corporation of Delta.

City of Surrey

Surrey’s biggest spender in 2011 was Coun. Barinder Rasode – but she says there is good reason why her expenses were the highest on council.

Rasode’s expenses for 2011 were $33,360, followed closely by Mayor Dianne Watts at $29,618, and Coun. Linda Hepner at $29,480.

Rasode said her high expenses are due to the many events she attends in the community and the travel costs associated with them.

Plus, Rasode said the India Business Mission in 2011 added to the high expense number.

“I also attend the most community events and I am the community liaison and many of these are ticketed events,” Rasode said.

“Every time something is held by a hospice or there is a Surrey memorial event, we have to pay to go. It’s very important that a city representative be out there as much as possible. I not only see it as a responsibility but also as an honour to represent the city at these events. Just today we got a call from the Legion that they just want one councillor so that they feel they are being recognized by the city, but if I go, I have to buy tickets. It’s a double-edged sword.”

Coun. Tom Gill spent $19,644 followed by Coun. Marvin Hunt at $19,499. The other Surrey councillors all had expenses of $11,000 and lower.

Watts said the India Business Mission was one of the leading costs from last year, totalling $14,496 of her bill.

“I keep costs down as low as I possibly can,” said Watts. “As mayor I’m required to attend various events and conferences and it’s not unusual there would be costs.”

The second largest cost after the India trip came from the Creating Climate Wealth 2011 Conference, which was held in Washington, D.C., and cost $5,595.

The City of Surrey’s revenues totalled $654.8 million in 2011, which is down from $699.1 million in 2010.

Overall, the report finds the city “remains in financially-sound condition.” The C.D. Howe Institute gave Surrey an “A” rating for budget management and financial reporting.

City of White Rock

In 2011, White Rock city council spent 257 per cent more in expenses than they did in the previous year – an increase of $20,000 from 2010.

The member of White Rock council with highest expenses for 2011 was Coun. Lynne Sinclair at $7,284 – up from $3,966 the previous year. Sinclair also had the highest expenses for 2010. Then mayor Catherine Ferguson came in with the second highest at $6,960 compared with $3,248 for the previous year. Coun. Grant Meyer came in third with $6,687 in expenses for 2011 compared with $387 in 2010 – an increase of 1,727 per cent.

Overall, White Rock council spent $34,725 in expenses for 2011, or nearly three times the $13,483 spent in 2010.

According to Sandra Kurylo, director of financial services for the City of White Rock, expenses generally include travel to conferences and other business, membership and registration fees and special events.

“Most of it, if you look at the dollars, are conferences and travel related,” said Kurylo, noting that one of the 2011 conferences, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, was held in Halifax for that year.

According to Kurylo, Sinclair and Meyer simply attended more conferences in 2011 than 2010, which would account for their increase in expenses. For Ferguson’s, Kurylo explained that the then-mayor had also taken some professional development courses in 2011 that would account for her expenses doubling.

As for city staff remuneration, top earners include Robert Thompson, director of engineering and municipal operations who was paid $220,365 in 2011 after receiving $182,883 in 2010, then city manager Peggy Clark, who earned $185,760 as opposed to $195,535 in the previous year, and Kurylo with $140,707 compared with $136,745 in 2010.

City revenues were nearly $1 million less than expected for 2011, missing the $35,601,876 mark by $833,540. In the accompanying financial report, the lower revenue is cited as being a result of planned parkland acquisitions not taking place.

 

Corporation of Delta

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson chalked up just over $134,857 in total pay, benefits and expenses as Delta’s mayor and head of the police board last year.

Council’s 2011 remuneration and expense report noted that the mayor’s pay last year stood at $103,032, while her car allowance was $14,328. She had $3,281 in benefits and $14,217 combined when it came to mayoralty and police board expenses.

Meantime, councillors made just more than $45,700 last year, with the exception of Sylvia Bishop and Jeannie Kanakos, who were newcomers elected last year and earned just over $2,500.

The returning councillors all had almost $8,000 in a car allowance in 2011. As far as benefits, Bruce McDonald collected the least at $2,075, while Heather King, who left her council seat to run for mayor, listed the most at almost $6,800.

When it comes to expenses, Robert Campbell had the least at $3,586, while Ian Paton racked up the most at $8,847. Paton said his expenses were high due to costs incurred while on a lobbying trip to Ottawa.

This year, council voted to give themselves another salary increase and also to undertake an analysis of how other communities determine their council stipends.

The motion for a study was brought forward by Bishop, who said that while Delta has a seemingly fair calculation based on the average of similar communities, it’s always a good idea every few years to see what new formulas might be in practice elsewhere.

The Delta salaries are based on the average of four Lower Mainland municipalities with similar populations: Coquitlam, Richmond, Township of Langley and District of North Vancouver.

The current Delta remuneration rate had fallen below the average, so the raise was brought forward. A report from staff noted Delta is the largest municipality in the province that continues to employ a mayor and six councillors, while it’s normal practice for municipalities with populations over 50,000 to have eight councillors.

– Stories by Eva Cohen, Christopher Poon and Sandor Gyarmati

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COMMENT:
Surrey……YOU have a big problem.
As an outsider…..you know what I see ?
Other than your Mayor welcoming World Criminals like Bush and Clinton to speak, and not arresting them…you are clearly engaging in ethnic block voting. Expenses of $33,000 ? WTF ?
That’s more than most of the constituents probably earn annually.
QUOTE:

Rasode said her high expenses are due to the many events she attends in the community and the travel costs associated with them.

Plus, Rasode said the India Business Mission in 2011 added to the high expense number.

“I also attend the most community events and I am the community liaison and many of these are ticketed events,” Rasode said.

“Every time something is held by a hospice or there is a Surrey memorial event, we have to pay to go. It’s very important that a city representative be out there as much as possible. I not only see it as a responsibility but also as an honour to represent the city at these events. Just today we got a call from the Legion that they just want one councillor so that they feel they are being recognized by the city, but if I go, I have to buy tickets. It’s a double-edged sword.”

So…… groups see that asking of a Politicians will PAY to attend a function is another ticket sold = $$$$….So this could ramp up to $50,000 next year……aka then the old pick and choose  OH NO that’s discrimination. You could have 500 – 1000 groups demanding this (as opposed to just offering free tickets to the blessed elected).

Trade Missions Sister City’s etc.  are STUPID JUNKETS…get skype / fax/ or conference call etc. can do the same job.

Sorry…this person is being used …… or willingly exploited….. as a token “ethnic rep”. to BUY Votes in a key ethnic bloc. India..really????…how much business is this Junket going to create…you can never quantify it….there is enough critical mass of  existing citizens of ethnic block “X” that probably have long established links.

The rest of the political whores are no less guilty.

They are detached from reality and are in the scary Entitlement Mode…the Emperor Has No Clothes meets the Golden Goose.

Rather than lead by example and show us they respect every Taxpayer Penny…these expense accounts are simply small examples that indict them when it comes to City Spending…these inmates will run the asylum into bankruptcy. No Golden Goose last forever..they all have very short life spans.

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