Cost of running Surrey is up by $56 million

Mayor and council spent about 10 per cent less on trips, but 40 per cent more on communication, such as cellphones and Internet use.

Surrey City Council rang up marginally less last yer than the year prior

It cost $56 million more to run the city last year compared to 2011, according to financial figures released this week.

Surrey’s 2012 Statement of Financial Information details how much money was received and how much was spent.

The city spent $655 million in 2012, and of that, $506 million went to suppliers and $153 million went to staff costs, which was a $3 million increase from the year prior.

The big jump came by way of increases to third-party suppliers, which jumped by $53 million from 2011’s $453 million.

City staff say that’s mostly due to a “very aggressive capital program” that includes the construction of a new city hall and initiatives in the “Build Surrey” program.

Last year, Surrey council rang up $798,217, a marginal drop from the $799,433 from the year prior.

But a shift in spending priorities is evident as council spent 10 per cent less on civic trips ($114,990) but 40 per cent more on cellphones, faxes and Internet service ($35,896).

The biggest spender on council was Coun. Marvin Hunt, who rang up $31,457. That was an increase of $11,958 from the year prior and is mostly due to civic trips. They included the World e-Government Organization in Barcelona, Spain ($5,444;) the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Conference in Saskatoon, Sask. ($2,886); the World Hydrogen Energy Conference ($2,582) in Toronto, Ont.; and the FCM Board Meeting, also in Toronto ($2,292).

Closesr to home, Hunt went to $1,522 worth of local events, and like all councillors, had car expenses.

Hunt said Tuesday it was a busy and productive year, which showed up on his travel costs.

“We’re trying to do a bunch of new and creative things electronically and for electronic government,” Hunt said. “And you just see it in the fact we have turned council electronic now, we’re all using iPads.

“Simple things like that, but it’s all part of a puzzle in where we’re trying to move this city.”

As to why a conference on electronic government couldn’t be held electronically, by video or Skype, Hunt said it wouldn’t have had the same dynamic effect as showing up in person.

“In some senses you’re absolutely right,” Hunt said. “But you know, there’s still that collaboration that happens (when attended in person).”

Following Hunt closely was council newcomer Bruce Hayne, who rang up $30,866 in expenses. His expenses also included several civic trips, including the World e-governments Organization in Barcelona, Spain ($5,733); Creating Climate Wealth in Washington, DC ($3,728); and the FCM in Saskatchewan ($3,041).

Hayne also attended $900 worth of local seminars and events. Hayne was newly elected in 2011, so his only charges were $124 in gas mileage for that year.

Closely behind the two top spenders was Mayor Dianne Watts, who charged $28,724 to taxpayers, down $894 from the year prior.

Most of that was also for civic trips, including to Surrey’s sister city in China ($11,407). Her trip to China cost more than expected because she was called back early to attend the funeral of fallen RCMP Const. Adrian Oliver.

She also attended the FCM conference in Saskatchewan ($2,672) and the Geneva Mayor’s Conference, in Geneva, Switzerland ($2,807).

Watts spent $619 attending local events and seminars.

The rest of council fell way back from the top three spenders.

Coming in a distant fourth was Coun. Judy Villeneuve at $17,300 (up $6250); followed by Coun. Tom Gill, who rang up $13,854 (down $5,790); Coun. Barinder Rasode, who charged $12,281 to her civic account (a drop of $21,079 from the year prior); Coun. Linda Hepner, who billed the city $11,281 (down $18,199); Coun. Mary Martin, who charged $10,059 (up $948); and Coun. Barbara Steele, who was the most frugal councillor, spending only $8,491 – a $2,039 increase from 2011.

Councillors also receive an annual salary of about $62,000 and the mayor is paid $117,000.

The full report of council’s expenses can be found at http://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2013-R110.pdf.

The full 2013 Statement of Financial Information can be found at http://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2013-R109.pdf

 

 

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

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