Pitt Meadows council is getting overzealous in its scrutiny of city hall expenditures, according to councillors Bill Dingwall and Tracy Miyashita – the only two members of council who did not campaign as part of Mayor John Becker’s team.
Dingwall said there are about 1,000 items on the list of expenditures councillors are currently examining, and some of the expenditures are as low as $4.
“We hire and pay a CAO and senior administrators and senior managers within the city to manage our operation, and they do so with credibility and good faith,” said Dingwall.
Council has always reviewed expenditures over $25,000 as part of the annual statement of financial information report. But after the late Tom Murray, a Pitt Meadows property tax crusader, received a list of all expenditures under $25,000, council members asked questions about those figures, too.
Each councillor will now forward a list of items from the 2014 list that require clarification.
Staff has also been asked whether they can develop a new system that will categorize these payments, and include a description on the list – along with the amount and the recipient which are recorded now.
Dingwall suggested a more narrow scope for council’s “fishing,” and said questions should only be asked of expenditures of at least $500, $1,000 or $2,000 – or whatever amount council chooses.
Miyashita also said council should trust city staff.
“That’s their job, to manage the work of the city, and I completely trust the work our staff are doing,” she said.
Miyashita said the expenditures of city councillors should also be closely scrutinized, because some claim no expenses, while others claim thousands.
Coun. Bruce Bell supports closer spending scrutiny, noting that the list of expenditures under $25,000 adds up to $2.4 million, and council is “doing due diligence,” to ask questions. He would like to see notes included with each line item.
“It is the taxpayer’s money, and I do believe it’s council’s job to make sure the taxpayer’s money is spent prudently,” said Bell.
“This group ran on fiscal responsibility, at least a number of us did, and I think that goes to why we are looking at everything we can to save the taxpayers money,” added Coun. Janis Elkerton.
Coun. Mike Stark said the spirit of his raising the issue was more transparency for the public, and education for council. He noted that finance department staff said it would not be onerous.
Similarly, a motion to direct staff to prepare an analysis of the salary, bonuses, and benefit increases paid to all exempt parks and recreation staff met with opposition from Dingwall and Miyashita.
The motion from Elkerton asked for the figures from January 2012 to date, to include any increases which have been committed but not yet implemented, and to include the name of the individual, position, base salary percentage increase in each category, and dollar increase in each category.
Dingwall said he could not support the motion because Pitt Meadows partners with Maple Ridge for recreation services.
“I think a notice to Maple Ridge about this kind of interest would have been in order,” said Dingwall. “It sends the wrong message without engaging Maple Ridge.”
Elkerton said she is concerned with rising costs.
“I’ve seen our parks and recreation budget go from $100,000 in 1994 to millions today.
“We pay 20 per cent of this budget. I think it is up to council to be doing our due diligence and scrutinizing expenditures.”