Abbotsford’s mayor and council will have significantly more money to attend conferences and events at their disposal after voting to boost their allowance for such activities.
In 2016, a citizens committee tasked with suggesting a council remuneration policy had also laid out limits on how much local politicians should be able to spend at conferences and local community events.
Councillors were limited to $3,500 in conference expenses, with the mayor receiving a $5,000 conference allowance. Council also received a $1,000 allowance to attend community events, with the mayor receiving $2,500.
A staff report, though, recommended raising those limits because over two years, the cost to attend such conferences has risen, as have the number of local community events.
Staff said the conference expense limit should be increased so that councillors could attend the three major conferences for municipal politicians, even if they were being held at sites far removed from Abbotsford.
“Staff are recommending that allowance amounts consider the cost for a ‘worst-case’ scenario, with the recognition that some years the budget will not be fully required,” the report says.
It adds that the number of event days in the city rose six per cent between 2018 and 2017.
On Monday, council voted to boost the conference allowance for councillors by more than 70 per cent, from $3,500 to $6,000. Councillors’ community events allowance will rise 50 per cent, from $1,000 to $1,500.
Coun. Dave Loewen said he welcomed the change.
“There are years when I don’t attend all three, but other years it has happened, especially if the agenda is one which I think I want to and need to be present at,” Loewen said.
The mayor’s conference allowance will rise by 17 per cent, from $5,000 to $6,000. His or her allowance for community events will increase from $2,500 to $3,000, a 20 per cent jump.
After a brief discussion about expenses for the person serving as deputy mayor, the increase was passed unanimously.
Mayor Henry Braun and Coun. Kelly Chahal were not present for the vote.
Local lawyer Douglas MacAdams, who chaired the committee that recommended the original policy set in 2016, told The News that he didn’t see any problem with council’s move and the fact that it occurred without input from a citizen’s committee.
“I think increasing conference and event allowances is but a small part of council remuneration (and arguably is not part of remuneration at all but is really indemnification) and probably is not significant enough to warrant creating a citizens working committee to provide input and advice,” MacAdams wrote in an email.