May 26, 2019

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Councillor spends money like it's her own -- frugally

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/12/2011 (2705 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One city councillor pinched pennies to pay for a second office and spent less than $10 on business meetings in the first nine months of the year.

According to the latest city councillor expense reports posted online, Old Kildonan Coun. Devi Sharma spent $34,350 of her taxpayer-funded ward allowance between January and September -- the least of any member of city council. Sharma spent the least amount on advertising, zero on travel, 59 cents on postage and only $9.62 on business meetings.

By comparison, 10 city councillors spent upwards of $50,000 of their ward allowances during the same time period, including Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) who spent $13,814 on advertising and former St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves, who spent $2,381 on business meetings.

Councillors are entitled to spend approximately $74,000 a year on office supplies, salaries for assistants, printing, transportation, business meetings, computers and telephones, among other expenses.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/12/2011 (2705 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One city councillor pinched pennies to pay for a second office and spent less than $10 on business meetings in the first nine months of the year.

According to the latest city councillor expense reports posted online, Old Kildonan Coun. Devi Sharma spent $34,350 of her taxpayer-funded ward allowance between January and September — the least of any member of city council. Sharma spent the least amount on advertising, zero on travel, 59 cents on postage and only $9.62 on business meetings.

By comparison, 10 city councillors spent upwards of $50,000 of their ward allowances during the same time period, including Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) who spent $13,814 on advertising and former St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves, who spent $2,381 on business meetings.

Councillors are entitled to spend approximately $74,000 a year on office supplies, salaries for assistants, printing, transportation, business meetings, computers and telephones, among other expenses.

Sharma decided to spend a portion of her ward allowance to open a secondary community office on Leila Avenue to be more accessible to constituents. In the first nine months of the year, she spent close to $13,000 on the office — more than any other councillor. Sharma said she was extra careful about spending in other categories to ensure she had enough money for the community office, a part-time assistant and other expenses. She is the only member of council with a second office and said she spent the remainder of her ward allowance in the fourth quarter.

"I watch the bottom line. I treat it as my own money and I think people should always look for the deal," said Sharma, noting she tries to buy office supplies when they go on sale and brings her own lunch to save time and money. "You just have to; it goes further."

Councillors' quarterly expense reports are posted online, and the public can view the total amount they've spent to date.

Beginning in January, the public will be able to see a more detailed account of how councillors spend their taxpayer-funded allowance. Councillors will be required to keep detailed receipts for every expense and the city will post a summary of each councillor's monthly expenses online, including where and with whom councillors attended a business meeting. Stricter rules will dictate what councillors can and can't spend their allowances on: Basic cable can be expensed, while movie and entertainment channels cannot.

Councillors will be responsible for reimbursing any non-compliant expenditure or any overspending.

Governance committee chairman Coun. Grant Nordman said the new regulations are modelled after those in Toronto and will be more transparent.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Colin Craig said Winnipeg's move to become more like Toronto, where officials scan every receipt expensed by civic politicians and post them online, is a step in the right direction. The advocacy group has called for greater transparency in the past and Craig said it's important for the public to see exactly how public money is spent.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

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