The average Red Deer city councillor racked up nearly $5,000 in expenses in 2012.
On top of an annual salary of $51,616, each city councillor has up to $10,926 a year for expenses like conference and seminar registrations, business travel, mileage, office supplies and professional development.
Overall, the eight councillors used a total of $39,144 or 48 per cent of their collective $87,408 expenses allotment.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes was top spender, using $9,678.66 or 94 per cent of her budget.
She spent $1,532.25 on seminar and conference registrations; $5,477.62 on business travel; $1,455.48 on mileage; and $1,213.13 on office supplies and miscellaneous items.
Wyntjes said she looks at it as managing her budget as opposed to being the top spender on council.
“I didn’t go over budget, which I think is important,” said Wyntjes. “There’s an expectation from our citizens and voters that we as councillors are knowledgeable and that we participate. And if there’s issues we don’t learn about, we dig in and find out more information so we are able to contribute and make effective decisions.”
Some expenses were incurred, for example, while attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Saskatoon, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association conference in Edmonton, Red Deer’s Festival of Trees business luncheon and participating in the Chamber of Commerce speaker series.
Wyntjes said councillors have different working styles and some may attend more events or workshops than others because of work commitments and other priorities.
Coun. Buck Buchanan claimed the least expenses, $1,860 or 18 per cent of his budget. He spent $113 on seminar and conference registration; $677 on business travel; $500.85 on mileage; and $218.27 on office supplies and miscellaneous.
Mayor Morris Flewwelling said the expense budget tends to be fairly generous and council operates on the understanding if “we don’t need it, we don’t spend it.”
There are no carry forwards and it would not be conceivable for a councillor to dip into his budget to help another councillor who may be short.
“You make sure none of us in deprived of a very important opportunity in the community,” said Flewwelling. “For example, Coun. Wyntjes has attended many community fairs and exhibitions representing Red Deer in their parades. There’s usually handouts and some other expenses. I know she did a lot, as did Coun. Lynne Mulder, which is going to buck them up.”
As mayor, Flewwelling is paid an annual salary of $86,684 and has an expense budget of $25,997. The mayor’s office also has an annual public relations budget of $155,425, with increases of $110,000 (to $265,425 in 2012) and $140,000 (to $295, 425 in 2013) included to support centennial planning and events.
Last year, Flewwelling spent $20,849.38, or 80 per cent of his allotment, on expenses and $213,941, or 81 per cent, of his public relations budget.
“I always try to manage that budget so I always have some funds for what arises,” said Flewwelling. “In a year of a lot of activity, there’s more expense and a year with less activity or fewer activity, there’s less expense.”
In previous years, councillors were paid a per diem rate but this was discontinued in November 2011. The only exception is when councillors attend non-city committees such as Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In this case, they are paid at a rate of $235 a day or $35 an hour for fewer than eight hours.
Mayor and council expense tallies are available under City Council online at www.reddeer.ca.
Council expenses in 2012:
• Coun. Dianne Wyntjes –– $9,678
• Coun. Paul Harris –– $8,474
• Coun. Cindy Jefferies –– $5,894
• Coun. Frank Wong –– $3,975
• Coun. Chris Stephan –– $3,797
• Coun. Lynne Mulder –– $3,340
• Coun. Tara Veer –– $2,123.46
• Coun. Buck Buchanan –– $1,860
• Mayor Morris Flewwelling –– $20,849 (expenses) and $213,941 (public relations)