The City of Summerside has made good on a promise to reveal the expenses mayor and council incur while travelling on behalf of the city.
The figures were provided following a request from the Journal Pioneer.
Council voted unanimously to release the information to give taxpayers a clear view of how their tax dollars are being spent. It is an effort to be transparent and accountable. They will continue to post expense reports on a quarterly basis.
Kudos to them for that.
In March, council approved the 2013 municipal budget and in the document is a line item for conferences and membership. Council approved $108,800 for the current fiscal year.
For the first half of 2013, the city has spent $52,446.01 on travel, conferences, accommodations and meals – just about half of the budgeted amount. That’s either good budgeting or good bookkeeping. It’s good budgeting if all of the travel figures are being released and not being charged off to some other departmental account.
The red flag issue in all of these figures is the trip to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Vancouver on May 29.
Mayor Basil Stewart and councillors Peter Holman, Jim Steele, Ron Dowling and Frank Costa all made the trip out west at a total cost of $20,543.37 for the four-day conference.
There’s no question that the City of Summerside should be represented at the federation’s annual meeting, but asking the taxpayers to foot the bill for the mayor and four councillors is ludicrous.
Stewart defends the number saying there is “strength in numbers” and the more representatives a municipality can have at a national conference, the stronger its voice will be.
He also argues that there are a number of speakers and workshops that could be valuable to the city’s future growth and the more councillors that are there the more of these events can be attended.
Stewart said, “if you’re not around the table you get left behind.”
That may be true, but there has been no formal public presentation to the taxpayers from any one of the delegates of any benefits the city has garnered from this $20,543.37 investment.
Summerside should be represented at national conferences and should travel if the trip will benefit the city.
Each and every councillor, along with the mayor, should make a public report on any trip financed by the taxpayer and explain why the trip was taken and what the benefits will be to the city.
It can be money well spent but it also needs to be controlled.
Let the people be the judge of how well the money was spent.