Office budget cut comes at cost

One of council’s highest spenders, Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis, says a $23,000 cut to her office expense budget will make it harder to communicate with her constituents this term.

“It will have an impact on the frequency and means of communication and engaging people in my community,” Davis said.

In 2009, Davis spent $51,383.39 when the maximum allowance was $53,100.

“I spend 80 percent of my budget communicating with residents,” she said.

Her biggest ticket items were printing and distributing two newsletters, photocopies, mailing out flyers for community events costing $26,199.55 in 2009.

With the cut, approved by council in December, Davis is concerned about whether she can afford a constituency office at the East York Civic Centre.

“We pay the city from our budgets (for that),” she said.

A staff report will come back this spring addressing if there should be allowances for free meeting space in city-owned buildings.

Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher couldn’t be reached for comment, but she too, will have to cut corners. She spent $49,868.52 in 2009 mostly on flyers, newsletters, ads, web design and cell phone use.

Don Valley West Councillor John Parker, also one of the biggest spenders at city hall in 2009, used $52,158.44 of the office budget. He will have to make similar cuts.

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 (constituents) in their homes, offices and factories. I can get more insight into their circumstances that way.”

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.”

“We have to have enough room so councillors have some money to deal with emergencies and extra pressures,” Perks said, adding he’s concerned a new budget won’t allow for flexibility.

Slashing councillors’ budgets will save the city $899,580 annually.