Office cuts sting, says John Filion

The Willowdale rep says he'll have to cut corners after their budget slash

Willowdale councillor John Filion is among the councillors who will have to tighten their belts when it comes to spending at city hall.

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

Filion, whose ward is one of the most residentially dense in the city, said it’ll be tight with a budget cut. He was one of a handful of reps who voted against the cut.

“I have 100,000 constituents and 42,000 households. The average is around 62,000 residents and 25,000 households (per ward),” Filion said.

It costs more to communicate with additional people, said the Ward 23 rep.

And it’s clear he will have to cut corners: Filion spent $48,798.42 of 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 said.

During the election, Ford campaigned on a promise to curb spending at city hall, saying reps were taking advantage of the budget.

“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.”

Filion said Ford ran on a campaign of customer service, but by slashing his budget, Ford effectively cut Filion’s ability to provide the same level of customer service to his constituents.

But neighbouring Willowdale councillor David Shiner says it is possible to communicate with residents within a smaller budget.

“I think a reduction in our office budgets was necessary,” he said. “I myself communicated well with my constituents and spent an average of about $25,000.”

North York rep Shelley Carroll also voted for the budget cuts.

“I had to set an example especially in the second term when I was budget chief,” she said.

One way she cut expenses was by not renting a storefront constituency office because rents are high in Ward 33. Councillors with a constituency office in old civic centres are charged for that space. Shiner has asked for a staff report on whether councillors can access these spaces at no cost to their office budget.

One expense Carroll deems untouchable is office staff. She vows to fight any reduction in councillors’ staffing if that allotment is reduced in the overall 2011 budget.

“You need to be in three or four places at one time,” she said, adding her staff attends some meetings while she attends others.
Slashing councillors’ budgets will save $899,580 annually.

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: Jan 12 2011 1:09 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto