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Council to discuss travel expense policy

The first official session of the new city council will have some weighty items up for discussion.

In the interest of providing a quick reference point for city residents about those items, they have been broken down into separate sections.

The strengthening of City travel expense policies

In recent months, the municipal government put financial records from the past six years onto their website.

After expenses related to travel contained in those records drew attention from the public, it was stated by Director of Strategy Todd Corrigall that the City had no parametres on where they could go for meals while travelling on City business, no limits on the amounts that could be expensed for those meals, or limits on general conference expenses.

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However, Corrigall had indicated that work was underway to get limits in place in a new policy, which will be brought forward today.

The guidelines for the new policy.
The guidelines for the new policy.

The agenda documents indicate that the City looked at seven different travel expense policies across Canada, including the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The key changes in the policy include the implementation of a $60 per diem rate for meals when City workers are travelling out of town for business. When workers are only out for parts of the day, different amounts will be assigned to different times, such as $10 for breakfast, $20 for lunch, and $30 for dinner. Under the changed system, meal receipts would not be required.

A breakdown on the expense rates for City workers.
A breakdown on the expense rates for City workers.

Senior members of administration and members of city council would not have the per-diem system applied for “validated business development purposes”. However, they would be required to submit receipts.

An additional key change would be the requirement for senior administration and city council members to fill out monthly travel reports, which would summarize the nature and cost of their travel expenses. Under the new policy, these reports would be posted to the municipal website.

A change in council procedure

Council will be asked to discuss two changes to the way their meetings function. These changes, if approved, will remove the need for councillors to make motions to debate items, along with the need for motions to be made prior to a debate, or a vote.

However, these changes indicate the start of a larger process. According to the agenda documents, city administration has reviewed the historical and current procedures for the conduct during council meetings, and is proposing a complete re-write of the current procedure bylaw in the spring of 2017.

The last major change the procedure bylaws faced was back in 2011, when the committee system was abolished. The two changes proposed for Monday are meant to allow council members more discussion on items, as well as switching up the way administration reports are presented to council. Under the current system, councillors bring forward reports from the departments they are liaison with, along with a recommended motion.

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If changed, reports would instead be presented to council by the senior directors of City administration. Council would then question the director, and debate the contents of the report. They would also have the ability to make any motion they wish, as opposed to having a recommended motion placed in front of them.

The approval of funds for a downtown redevelopment plan

The municipal government has been working on ways to revitalize the downtown core of the Border City in recent years. While the purchase of the downtown Synergy Credit Union building for the Community Hub project has been set aside, that process of planning is still ongoing.

The latest step would be the awarding of an RFP by the City to O2 Planning + Design Inc., for the creation of a redevelopment plan for the downtown. If council approves the move, the total cost is pegged at $149,547.60 for the entire project, which would last from December of this year to August-October of next year.

Borrowing bylaw repealed

During the summer, Bylaw 27-2016 was passed by the former council, which authorized the borrowing of funds for the purchase of the former downtown Synergy building. However, due to that purchase being shelved, the bylaw is no longer needed, and thus will need to repealed. If passed, the City will have its borrowing commitments reduced by $4,716,000.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–The changing of banking services

Council will be asked by administration to discuss the approval of Scotiabank as the main provider for the banking services of the municipal government, starting in January of 2017. According to the agenda documents for Monday, an RFP was issued by the City in August for banking services. The chosen financial institution would be the provider for the next three years. The benchmarks for the bids, of which six were received, were focused on the City’s financial needs, the ability to integrate with the new finance software being used by the City, and the cost of the services. A total cost on the switch is not included in the documents.


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