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Sudbury city council questions ward funds, office expenses

This week, Sudbury city councillors will be debating the tens of thousands of tax dollars they personally get to spend.

Proposals could tighten rules on $50K ward funds, $10K office expense accounts

(Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

This week, Sudbury city councillors will be debating the tens of thousands of taxdollars they personally get to spend.

Two proposed changes to the councillor office expenses, as well as the contentious ward funds, will be tabled at Tuesday night's meeting.

Sudbury city council tightened up the rules around the $50,000 each councillor can spend in their ward last year.

But Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli said he wants the Healthy Community Initiative funds further restricted, so councillors can only spend that money on city projects — rather than grants to community groups and festivals.

"At the end of the day, I think our role as councillors is to set policy, not sign cheques," said Belli.

But Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume disagreed.

He said the money he's given to winter carnivals, high school bursaries and walking trails are a good use of tax dollars.

"It's all positive things that helps out to engage citizens, get them involved, have community spirit and I can't see why we want to change that," Berthiaume said.

Office expenses debate

Also at Tuesday night's meeting, councillors will discuss the $10,489 they are allotted each year to cover office expenses.

Ward 12 councillor JoscelyneLandry-Altmann is proposing changes to how office expenses are reported.

She also wants the public to know when a councillor pays for business costs out of their own pocket.

Landry-Altmann could not be reached for comment, but Belli said he often uses his own money rather than tax dollars.

"I don't feel comfortable when I'm buying an ad that I'm using taxpayers dollars for it," he said. "Or when I buy a ticket to an event. But that's my choice."

Councillors are allowed to expense two tickets to community events that fit into their role as elected officials. They can also expense advertisements that congratulate certain citizens, offer seasons greetings or inform constituents about matters of public interest.

Despite this focus on what councillors spend, Berthiaume said he doesn't believe the city needs to change any of the rules around these funds.

"We're a lot more transparent than our provincial and federal counterparts," he said. "I know they're now talking about putting their expenditures open to the public. Jeez, you know, they just have to follow our example."

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