Abbotsford city politicians’ expenses rise in 2015

Mayor Henry Braun attributes increase to 'engaged' new councillors.

Coun. Brenda Falk

Coun. Brenda Falk

Abbotsford’s mayor and council received $34,345 in expense payouts in 2015, a figure 22 per cent higher than last year’s total, according to the 2015 Statement of Financial Information received by council Monday.

Mayor Henry Braun claimed the most expenses at $6,621, a figure that is in line with expenses accrued by previous mayors Bruce Banman and George Peary.

Coun. Brenda Falk accrued the second highest expenses, with $6,533 reported.

Braun attributed the rise to the new councillors voted in during the municipal election in the fall of 2014 choosing to attend inter-municipal conferences like those hosted by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“There are four new councillors and they’re all hungry, ready to go,” he said. “I’m very pleased with how this council is working and am very pleased with how engaged they are.”

Other expense totals were:

– Coun. Sandy Blue: $5,079;

– Coun. Les Barkman: $4,158;

– Coun. Kelly Chahal: $3,770;

– Coun. Dave Loewen: $3,640;

– Coun. Mo Gill: $2,811;

– Coun. Patricia Ross: $1,373; and

– Coun. Ross Siemens: $361.

Falk, Blue, Chahal and Siemens were all elected for the first time in 2014.

The pay for the mayor and councillors was consistent with past years, but could be changing soon. Remuneration for local politicians hasn’t budged significantly since it was last evaluated by a consultancy in 2011.

Currently, the mayor’s pay is set at $95,200, with councillors earning $37,500. But that could soon change, as the city has created a citizens’ task force to look at the issue. The members of the task force – which will determine if, and by how much, the current council pay structure will change – were announced Monday.

They are:

– Laughie Bell – community representative and volunteer who has contributed to various local organizations;

– Douglas MacAdams – local lawyer who served on the last citizens’ group to review council’s pay, in 2007;

– Barb Schimnowsky – certified management consultant; and

– Mike Welte – commercial banker and community volunteer.

The group will spend the coming months researching the issue, and will submit their recommendations to the city manager, who will present them to council in September.

The task force won’t be paid for their efforts, but will be entitled to “reimbursement of reasonable expenses.”