Expense Policy progress

During the campaign, I promised to:

Bring a motion to have an expense policy put in place that more clearly details how councillors can spend Niagara Region money, what they can and cannot spend it on; outline how expense records shall be kept in order to be reimbursed, and implement a procedure whereby all expenses are to be approved by the Regional Clerk before they are paid out.

I’m happy to report that we’re making progress on this and we should have a finalized expense policy by summer.

At our February 20, 2019 Corporate Services Committee meeting, I made the following request:

I would like to request a report from staff about how we can improve the expense policy specifically related to councillor expenses. I know this is part of what Professor Sancton is addressing through the Governance Review. He is an expert in governance. I would like to know what our accounting and finance professionals think should be improved with respect to approvals, spending limits, what kinds of expenses should be permitted, required back up documentation, etc. I would like that report to come to Council at the same time that Professor Sancton’s report on this issue comes to Council.

Through discussions with staff, I agreed to have Sancton’s report come to Council (which was going to make recommendations about the expense policy) and then have the report I’d requested come to the following Corporate Services Committee meeting, as it did today.

I found the staff report to be thorough and that the suggested changes brought the expense policy much closer in line both with what so many of us are used to in our workplaces and with other regional municipalities.

The staff report and current expense policy are at the bottom of this blog entry and posted as a photo gallery that you scroll through and zoom in and out of for ease of reading.

My motion, seconded by Councillor Butters, at this morning’s Corporate Services Committee meeting was as follows:

That the current Expense Policy BE REVISED to include items 1 through 15 outlined in the Alternatives Reviewed section of the report;

That the revised Expense Policy BE SENT to the next Procedural By-law Review Committee for a final review prior to Council approval; and

That staff PROVIDE this committee with a report comparing the first two quarters to the same two quarters of previous terms of Council to determine if there has been an increase in the mileage and other similar expenses, since making councillors ‘whole’ again after the federal tax policy change.

The motion carried, and I don’t anticipate any significant challenges at Procedural By-law Review Committee (where I sit (as Vice-Chair) with Councillors Edgar (Chair), Foster, Greenwood, Heit, and Rigby).

Whilst I don’t agree with the suggested edit to 4.7d (about newsletters from Councillors being an eligible expense) and will work to have it removed from the expense policy, I felt it was more straightforward to move the edits as a block, and make the smaller adjustments at the next stage before the policy comes back to Council.

If you’d like to watch the quite short meeting and hear some of Councillors’ thoughts on the Expense Policy, you can watch it here:

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