Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Councillors reverse planned $39,000 cut to travel budget

Councillors changed their minds last night about cutting their travel budgets.

Last week, they voted to slash conference and travel expenses for themselves and senior managers by 50 per cent.

Then, last night, they voted to put the money -- $39,000 -- back. Councillors, the chief administrative officer and the city's management team use the money to attend conferences.

The issue returned to council this week because the earlier decision, made at a committee meeting, needed ratification.

Coun. Scott Witmer, who had proposed the cut, said he was disappointed it was restored.

"We need to remember that the money we are spending is not ours," he said after the meeting last night. "It's the taxpayers'. We are making a statement that small amounts can add up to large amounts."

Coun. Ian McLean said reducing the budget would have sent a signal to the public that politicians understand the difficult times people are facing.

"It's an opportunity to show leadership and we missed it,'' he said.

Coun. Jan d'Ailly, who was absent last week, voted against the cut. He was joined by Angela Vieth, Karen Scian and Diane Freeman.

"It's about the management team being ahead of the curve," Scian said. "I don't think they waste it.

"It's a conversation about values. If we make decisions based on price tags alone, we run the risk of making very bad decisions,'' she said.