Office budgets cuts short sighted: Perks

Councillor says new spending limit doesn't account for unique regional or emergency circumstances

Another stop on the gravy train has been eliminated as Mayor Rob Ford and council voted to cut office budgets.

The Dec. 16 vote was 40-5 in favour of reducing councillors’ expense accounts from $50,445 to a maximum of $30,000.

But what does this mean for your local councillor?

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks said he already spends less than the new limit, but voted against the cut as a one-size-fits-all policy is short sighted.

In 2009 when the maximum allowance was $53,100, Perks spent $22,568.02 including: $5,193 on extra staff salaries and benefits, $3,088 on parking and mileage, $3,247 on a website and cell phone, $3,081 on web design and interpretation services for ward residents.

“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.”

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

If a gas explosion or the G20 Summit was affecting a local ward, extra communication would be required at an additional cost and Perks worries the new budget doesn’t allow for that flexibility.

One way Perks cut down on costs in the past was foregoing a constituency office and renting a room for a few hours weekly at the Parkdale library for $1,530.

North York councillor Filion also voted against the policy.

“I have 100,000 constituents and 42,000 households. The (city) average is around 62,000 residents and 25,000 households,” said Filion, rep for Ward 23.

It costs more to communicate with additional people, said Filion, who spent $48,798.42 on his office budget in 2009.

“It’s all spent on things like an office in North York, staffing that office, sending information to my constituents,” he added.

Ford campaigned on cutting councillors’ budgets by citing the abnormalities, like politicians paying for bunny suits for parades or farewell parties.

“There was a lot of attention to office budget abuses, but there’s 45 of us and now everyone is paying the price because (former councillor) Kyle Rae spent $12,000 he shouldn’t have on a farewell party,” Filion said.

“The solution would have been to change the rules not cut the budget,” he added. “He (Ford) also ran on a campaign of customer service. He cut my customer service (budget).”

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

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: Dec 23 2010 2:21 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto