At least four Township councillors declined travel allowance
At least four Township of Langley councillors have turned down a controversial $340-a-month travel allowance.
The signed waivers accepting or rejecting the allowance were supposed to be turned in to the Township hall Human Resources office by Friday.
Township staff declined to release the responses Monday, citing freedom of information privacy regulations.
However, a Times survey of council shows at least four councillors, David Davis, Charlie Fox, Bob Long and Kim Richter, have turned down the travel allowance and at least two, Steve Ferguson and Grant Ward, have accepted it.
At The Times’ press deadline, Mayor Jack Froese and Councillor Bev Dornan had not responded to The Times’ query.
Councillor Michelle Sparrow said she has still not decided either way and was planning to consider her position over the holiday break.
“I’m going to talk it over with my family,” Sparrow said.
Among those who have decided, the reasons varied.
Ward said he was going to take the allowance because council should follow the recommendations of the independent council remuneration task force that proposed the allowance.
“I think that’s the only right thing to do,” Ward said.
Ferguson said he would be accepting, but plans to donate the money to charity.
Ferguson said he believes some other members of council intended to do the same.
Davis, who declined the allowance, said he is still not comfortable deciding his own pay hike. And he doesn’t think giving the money to a charity that taxpayers may or may not support is a good idea, either.
“Donating it doesn’t work, because we’re taking it out of the (taxpayer) coffers,” Davis said.
Fox, who turned the allowance down, said members of council already get a break on their travel costs, courtesy of Revenue Canada.
“I think the one-third tax break covers it,” Fox said.
A Revenue Canada interpretation bulletin issued in 1976 (IT-292) states elected municipal officials can avoid paying taxes on up to a third of their annual salary by declaring it to be an “expense allowance” which includes “mileage or other traveling allowance.”
Long said he hasn’t filled out his waiver form yet, but he would be declining “at least for this year” because he doesn’t travel as much as some other members of council.
“I don’t think I need it,” Long said.
Richter said no to the allowance after coming out against the task force call for a proposed pay hike and travel allowance, saying it was too soon after the December 2011 council pay hikes.
“I think we got enough of a raise (then),” said Richter.
It was 12 months ago that the mayor’s annual salary went up by 12.6 per cent and councillor pay rates rose by 19 percent. Those raises took effect when the new council took office in December, 2011.
The waiver form requires the mayor and councillors to formally accept or reject the travel allowance.
It notes that the travel allowance is a taxable benefit that will be reported on a councillor’s T4.
Any member of council who opts out has the option of changing their mind, the form notes.
“ … I understand that I may request to receive the travel allowance at any time in the future.”
The $340 a month travel allowance adds $4,080 to a councillor’s annual salary of $42,936, an increase of 9.5 per cent.
The mayor’s proposed travel allowance of $850 a month adds $10,200 on top of his salary of $105,456, an increase of 9.7 per cent.
The salary increase recommended by the task force was scaled back, so that there will be no increase next year.