Cutbacks after budgets slashed

Councillor John Parker is looking for the right moves to fit his budget

Another stop on the gravy train has been eliminated: Mayor Rob Ford and council recently voted to shave office budgets down to a spending limit of $30,000.

So what does this mean for your local councillor?

Don Valley West Councillor John Parker will likely have to cut back — he was one of the biggest spenders at city hall in 2009, using $52,158.44 of the $53,100 office budget.

One of his big-ticket items was $7,370.19 for a constituency office on Laird Drive, but he decided a year ago not to renew the lease.

“It turned out to be a good move. I wouldn’t have been able to afford it in the new budget,” Parker said.

But he’s not mourning the loss of a constituency office.

“I live in the ward so my front door stop is my constituency office,” he said. “It was more productive and satisfactory for me to meet with them in their homes, offices and factories. I can get more insight into their circumstances that way.”

Another large expense in 2009 was $18,394.80 for postage, printing and mailing newsletters, meeting notices, business cards and reports.

Parker’s not worried. He said having a reduced budget will encourage outside-the-box thinking to keep costs low.

“If we can coordinate sending out ward newsletters with material the city sends out, we can help each other with distribution costs,” he said.

Though Parker said he’ll make do, not all councillors felt it necessary to slash the budget.

Councillor Gord Perks spent $22,568.02 in 2009 and kept costs down by renting a room for a few hours a week in a library to meet residents. He also refrained from printing a newsletter. But Perks voted against the reduced budgets because he said a one size fits all policy won’t work for everyone.

“I can easily manage what’s required of me,” Perks said. “But Councillor (Adam) Vaughan has 25 percent more residents and more development applications than all of Scarborough. There are similar pressures for Councillor (John) Filion.

Perks said he’s concerned a new budget won’t allow for flexibility.

“We have to have enough room so councillors have some money to deal with emergencies and extra pressures,” Perks said.

Currently the city charges councillors who have constituency offices in civic centres, but staff will report back in the spring on whether this space could be used for free. Slashing councillors’ budgets will save the city $899,580 annually.

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: Jan 4 2011 5:06 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto