Town council looked favourably upon proposed revisions to expense policy that will vastly increase transparency for the public.
Presented by Town CAO Mike Derrricott at council's committee-of-the-whole meeting on Nov. 20, it included an online reporting process that line-by-line shows expenditures by councillors while performing their duties. It is proposed to be updated quarterly.
It also extensively cleaned up the remuneration and expense reimbursement policy wording.
Town councilor Patrick Wilson, who made the original notice of motion to review council's expense policy, gave the revised policy a thumbs up. He appreciated the transparency it provides on councillors' expense without the policy becoming overly prescriptive.
"I like the simplicity, and the original genesis of the notice of motion was particularly the increased transparency of council expenses for public scrutiny," said Wilson. "I think that is what we've achieved here."
He says that providing more details online places the onus on councillors to defend their own spending.
Rates and allowances of the National Joint Council (NJC) have been used as a guideline for travel and expenses of the mayor and council.
Councillor Alex Reed researched the NJC in advance of the meeting and believes it is an appropriate source for setting guidelines. He also favoured the policy draft presented.
"It hits all the key buttons in terms of what the public and what we expect of ourselves," said Reed.
As of Jan. 1, 2024, the mayor's salary will be $103,086, and councillors $43,296.
At their option, the mayor and councilors will receive 100 per cent coverage for town group benefit plans, which includes group life insurance, dependents life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment, extended health care, dental insurance, and employee assistance programs.
The mayor will have a $10,000 expense account for training and development and councillors have been designated $6,500.
Expenses for intergovernmental activities, such as travelling to meet with Alberta government officials, will fall outside of this budget. While that's largely by the mayor, it does on occasion include councillors. Those expenses will also be reported on the website.
Council debated the merits of allowing the transfer of training and development funding between councillors, which was not included in the draft.
Councillor Susan Flowers also inquired if any advancements were made in discussions around councillors' having a small budget for improvements around town, such as funding a bench.
Derricott says that the conversation is still on the table with council's budget task force and would be separate from the expense policy.
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