Council expenses come under scrutiny

Taxpayers in the Township face a property tax increase of 3.95 per cent. On Monday, after finance director Hilary Tsikayi outlined for council  key points of the 2011-2015 financial plan, which includes the budget for 2011, council compiled a list of items which represent areas where cuts could be made to lower that rate.

However, the list includes some items which, if council approves, will increase taxes.

Among the items under scrutiny are council expenses. The issue was raised on Monday by Councillor Charlie Fox who, expenses sheets show, had the lowest expenses of the nine council members in 2009, the last year for which figures are available.

In that year, Fox’s expenses came to $187. Other councillors’ expenses ranged from $3,129 (Jordan Bateman) to $9,459 (Grant  Ward).

Mayor Rick Green had the highest, $12,621.

Green’s expenses, Fox pointed out after the meeting, compare to former mayor Kurt Alberts’ expenses which totaled $2,419 in 2008, the last year he spent in office.

Expenses, largely for meals and travel, are paid despite the fact that one third of an elected official’s pay is tax-free and is intended to pay for expenses.

Other items that will come under scrutiny are hanging baskets for Aldergrove. Council may consider the involvement of a third party to help defray those costs which run at around $25,000 a year.

One of the most contentious items was replacing vehicles in the Township fleet.

Councillor Kim Richter was keen to see the replacement delayed for one year. Council was advised by staff that the replacement policy, which aims to replace vehicles before their repair and maintenance costs and resale value become onerous, is a “philosophy.”

Richter said that she too, could have a replacement philosophy that would require her to buy a new car every 10 years.

But if the roof of her house leaks, she would feel compelled to put off buying a new car.

“We have a lot of leaks in the roof that are probably more expensive than replacing a vehicle,” she said, referring to the budget expense.

If council approves the North East Yorkson Neighbourhood Park, proposed to be developed next to a new school, it would influence the budget in a negative way, unless council found funding in its surplus accounts.

The same would apply to a Willoughby Community Park South fieldhouse, an artificial turf field for Aldergrove Athletic Park and a swimming poll for Aldergrove.

The staff report, which will likely be presented to council at its next meeting on March 28, will also examine this year’s commitment to Rivers Day and the Demonstration Garden.