Nanaimo’s mayor says it’s obvious he had his wings clipped “significantly” on spending this year.
Nanaimo city council spent a total $57,000 last year, with all except three councillors increasing their spending, according to the 2016 statement of financial information.
Nanaimo councillors also experienced higher remuneration as a result of a new acting mayor stipend, which increased pay ranging from $71 for Bill Bestwick to $36,309, to $1,238 for Bill Yoachim to $36,676. According to Victor Mema, city chief financial officer, the acting mayor policy started during the year and some councillors had one chance and others had two at the acting mayors’ role based on the rotation, which accounted for differences.
The financial policy also laid out new budgets for politicians including $15,000 for Mayor Bill McKay, who spent $9,503 and made more than $95,000. The expense was more than 60 per cent lower than in 2015 when he spent $28,302.
Expenses included the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, Union of B.C. Municipalities and conferences and travel, like for B.C. Small Business Awards for a total $7,340.
McKay said as the rules read in the financial policy he can’t even invite someone to lunch without getting pre-approval on it. He said it inhibits him, but is the will of council, telling the News Bulletin if not for the policy, he would have been able to interact with leaders in the community and other economic contributors more than he is now and attend fact-finding conferences. He said he was not permitted to go to the mayors’ caucus in Fort St. John last year, so didn’t bother to go again this year and as a result, resigned as a representative of the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities.
Mema said he has not sat down with council to ask them for a debrief on budgets, but that to a large extent it is working. He also said the financial policy in general has worked pretty well and the way he expected.
“The whole point of this is to make this information available as soon as we get that finalized, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do,” said Mema.
This year the mayor’s budget was further reduced to $13,000, a reflection of a lower legal budget for all council members. Coun. Diane Brennan, who had no legal budget last year, was given the same $3,000 for conflict of interest all councillors will receive.