Council refines finances for 2013

Mayor Garry Litke says that the high expenses incurred by council in 2013 won’t be repeated in 2014

Mayor Garry Litke says that the high expenses incurred by council in 2013 won’t be repeated in 2014.

Litke defends the $32,729 in council expenses for 2013 — up from $18,369 in 2012 — as an aberration, due to a larger than usual amount of travel by councillors, including trips to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings held in Vancouver this year.

Litke said the high cost for the UBCM, was partly due to the Penticton delegation being booked into the Pan Pacific at $1,601 each.

However, Litke’s own expenses for the year are the highest on council at $8,167.

“I don’t know what happened,” said Litke.

“In 2013 I had to go to Prince George and FCM was here (in Vancouver), so we decided to  go to that. I know it will be less this year.”

Litke’s expenses are actually higher than those for Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman, who billed his city $7,117 in 2014.

Altogether, Abbotsford city council’s expenses were $7,436 less than Penticton at $25,293.

“Comparison to a Lower Mainland mayor is not really fair, because they don’t have the travel expenses,” said Litke.

Prince George Mayor Shari Green did bill a much higher amount, $20,057 of her council’s total of $48,671 in expenses.

By comparison, Revelstoke Mayor David Raven only expensed $3,318, the major portion of his council’s $4,186 total.

According to Litke’s expenses, he attended four major conferences in 2013, for a total cost of $7,040.52 to Penticton taxpayers.

UBCM stands out as a high expense for Litke, who expensed $2,781.24 for the meeting, only $610 of which was the registration fee.

That holds true for Coun. Helena Konanz, who had the second highest expenses on council at $6,682.

She billed $$2,794 for UBCM,  $745 of which was registration.

Like Litke, Konanz said her expenses will be lower in 2014.

“I don’t want my expenses to be that high,” said Konanz.

“We really need to look at how many councillors we send to each event.”

Konanz said city councillors can be more selective about which conferences they choose to attend, but argues they are important.

“I would never recommend many councillors going to FCM unless it was local,” said Konanz.

UBCM, however, is different, Konanz said. There, MLAs are part of the convention, and are approachable, not just at scheduled meetings but even is the hallways.

At the FCM, she said, the MPs aren’t walking around; they are only there to give their speeches and press interviews.

“I am not sure I would ever go again,” said Konanz.

The information delegates to these conferences gain, she said, is invaluable, but admits that some of it could be gained in other ways — seminars could be presented over the Internet, for example — but there is also the value of being able to lobby other decision-makers, as delegates do at the annual UBCM conferences.

Konanz isn’t sure when she will be able to introduce it, but said she plans to introduce a notice of motion that council expenses should be posted for the public to view on a quarterly basis.