Council rings up thousands in conference expenses

A trip for Red Deer’s nine elected leaders, plus its city manager, rang up a taxpayers’ bill of just over $36,500 to attend the national Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Halifax, N.S., earlier this month.

A trip for Red Deer’s nine elected leaders, plus its city manager, rang up a taxpayers’ bill of just over $36,500 to attend the national Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Halifax, N.S., earlier this month.

City manager Craig Curtis spent the most money overall, with expenses at just over $3,300 during the June 3-6 conference.

His fees came in higher because he stayed an extra day to attend meetings.

The conference costs include airfare, mileage, hotel, meals, parking, taxi fares as well as the conference fee of $699.

Buck Buchanan was the highest spending councillor, at just over $3,000, while Cindy Jefferies was the lowest at nearly $2,382.

The rest of council spent in between — Dianne Wyntjes at $2,977; Chris Stephan at $2,891; Mayor Morris Flewwelling at $2,675; Frank Wong at $2,603; Tara Veer at $2,533; Paul Harris at $2,533; Lynne Mulder at $2,328.

Besides the all-expense paid trip, the councillors (excluding Flewwelling) are given a per diem rate for attending meetings. The eight councillors each received $1,160.

The conference came in with a final cost of nearly $27,300 and with the per diems it rose to $36,557.

About 2,000 municipal leaders attended the June 3-6 conference to discuss critical municipal issues and learn from each other, as well as vote on resolutions that would then be used to lobby the federal government.

In 2010, council spent a total of $27,132 on the FCM national conference held in Toronto.

The average cost was nearly $3,400 as one councillor was unable to attend. This year’s average cost was almost $3,700.

Legislative and Governance Services manager Elaine Vincent said the average cost was higher because the conference was farther away. Next year’s FCM conference is in Saskatoon.

She said typically all of council attends the FCM and annual Alberta Urban Municipalities Association conferences.

Expenses for council attending the annual FCM conference come from the Elected Official’s budget, which is part of the city’s operating budget.

Vincent said a budget for council to attend the FCM and AUMA conferences has been in place since 1991.

“Over the last 20 years these funds have only increased slightly to account for (consumer price index) increases,” Vincent said.

The total 2011 budget for conferences is $47,216, with each councillor allocated an annual budget of just over $5,900 to attend conferences. The total budget for per diems is $178,958 — each councillor can receive up to $23,370 for per diems. Plus, they receive an annual salary.

Earlier this year, council approved a 2.9 per cent pay raise for themselves and non-unionized staff. Their annual salary was bumped to $28,335 from $27,556. Flewwelling is now being paid $84,157 annually while Curtis receives $200,893.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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