As common readers can have learn this week, Mayor Kennedy Stewart believes the town’s 10 councillors ought to get a lift of their “discretionary budgets” from $6,000 to $30,000.

That will imply discovering $300,000 in metropolis coffers this 12 months, which the mayor stated Monday at a information convention might come from a contingency fund.


I exploit “might” as a result of the mayor’s movement nonetheless has to go earlier than council subsequent week for debate. And, as you’ll learn close to the underside of this piece, at the least one metropolis councillor isn’t eager on a lift to her finances.

Within the meantime, you in all probability have questions.

What’s the rationale for the rise? Why $30,000?

I’ll get to the solutions in a number of sentences, however first wished to provide you an concept what that six grand is allowed to be spent on, in line with the town’s web site.

Right here it’s: “communications bills, charges for consulting or different contracted companies, prices of analysis and data gathering and prices of neighborhood outreach and occasions.”

Councillors previous and current whom I’ve spoken to used the $6,000 primarily to rent somebody to do analysis. It is best to know the $6,000 per councillor discretionary finances concept solely got here into play a number of years in the past, in line with my analysis.

So to the solutions to these two questions…

Past the mayor’s feedback Monday that “councillors in Vancouver are very, very beneath supported when in comparison with different councillors throughout the nation,” I used to be on the lookout for some impartial evaluation that supported the mayor’s request.

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I waited till his movement was posted on the town’s web site, however didn’t discover that evaluation. That’s in case you contemplate the point out of the massive bump Toronto metropolis councillors acquired of their budgets to $482,000 from $241,000.

However have in mind, Toronto has a ward system and not too long ago lowered the variety of councillors serving the town from 44 to 25. Other than that information, I didn’t see any language within the mayor’s movement that relied on research associated to Vancouver council.

And there’s been a number of through the years, though they’ve targeted on will increase to councillors’ salaries as a substitute of discretionary budgets. However in February 2016, metropolis employees made a presentation to the council of the day that led to the implementation of the $6,000-each discretionary budgets.

There was no report that accompanied the presentation, so the knowledge comes primarily in level type by way of a PowerPoint presentation, which famous 10 councillors had been supported by 4 full-time employees who present “primary administrative help.”

That help contains sustaining councillors’ calendars associated to metropolis enterprise, responding to invites to occasions and arranging conferences. Answering cellphone calls, taking messages, managing bills and data administration are different duties.

The presentation stated the town clerk carried out a evaluation of council help that included interviewing councillors and acquiring comparative info from Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax and Winnipeg.

“Typically, councillors in these municipalities obtain help throughout a broader vary of capabilities,” in line with one of many presentation slides, which outlined that help as administration of constituent points and correspondence, together with analysis and outreach.

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The evaluation discovered the extent of staffing and funding was larger in these municipalities, with as much as two full-time equal employees per councillor in comparison with 0.5 full-time equal in Vancouver.

Employees made three suggestions.

They had been:

  • Add one other full-time assistant at an estimated annual value of $67,000. That occurred.
  • Set up a discretionary fund (on the time the request was for $5,000 per councillor, however ended up being $6,000).
  • Rent an “info officer” at an estimated annual value of $73,000 whose mandate could be “to reinforce correspondence administration.” That occurred.

Now to that query about how the mayor landed on the $30,000 determine for every councillor. I acquired a reply to that query by way of electronic mail from Alvin Singh, the mayor’s supervisor of communications.

“He arrived at that determine after conversations with councillors about what their wants had been and the challenges they had been having,” Singh wrote. “He made an informed estimate about what would take advantage of sense, understanding that it was a place to begin for dialogue and that councillors could be free to make modifications throughout debate.”

Vancouver metropolis council at work within the chamber at metropolis corridor. Photograph Dan Toulgoet

NPA Coun. Lisa Dominato doesn’t recall having a direct dialog with the mayor about the necessity to enhance councillors’ discretionary budgets. And her NPA colleague, Sarah Kirby-Yung, remarked on Twitter that she realized of the mayor’s movement at his Monday information convention.

Dominato stated she doesn’t help a rise to the councillors’ budgets. She acknowledges her function is demanding however stated she would favor to focus discussions on reasonably priced housing, metropolis planning and transportation.

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“I don’t imagine it’s the time proper now to be giving civic politicians a five-fold enhance in discretionary spending, particularly once we simply elevated property taxes by 4.5 per cent,” she stated, noting latest approval of the $1.5-billion working finances additionally referred to as for an impartial panel to evaluation the town’s spending and a brand new course of to develop subsequent 12 months’s finances. “I don’t perceive the urgency.”

Dominato, who’s one in all eight rookie councillors, shares an assistant with Kirby-Yung. Dominato stated her assistant has been reserving conferences, following up on correspondence and doing a variety of administrative duties and help, “which I respect and worth.”

Dominato stated she appreciates the spirit of the mayor’s movement however believes if councillors want extra employees, then such a request must be a part of the common finances course of and primarily based on evaluation of want.

“You need to work exhausting in these roles,” she stated. “There’ll in all probability at all times be extra calls for in your time than you ever have time. However it’s public service and I believe we should be considerate about our taxpayer {dollars}, and the way we use them.”

Inexperienced Get together Coun. Pete Fry instructed me earlier within the week that he helps the mayor’s request for the rise to $30,000. So does that imply his two Inexperienced colleagues help it, too?

And is Dominato’s place supported by her 4 fellow NPA councillors?

Solutions to come back possible Wednesday, when the mayor’s movement is debated within the council chamber.

Might be a doozy.

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