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Majority of Langley Township council won't take travel allowance

Mayor Jack Froese has turned down a controversial travel allowance proposed by a independent remuneration task force.

In a Dec. 19 email to The Times, Township corporate media liaison Erin McKay said the mayor had indicated as early as Dec. 5 that he would not be accepting the increase.

In response to a Times follow-up query, McKay confirmed that the mayor had, in fact, signed the waiver.

The mayor’s decision means a majority of council has now formally rejected the proposed travel allowance.

A Times survey shows at least four councillors, David Davis, Charlie Fox, Bob Long and Kim Richter, have turned down the travel allowance and at least three, Steve Ferguson, Grant Ward and Bev Dornan, have accepted it.

Councillor Michelle Sparrow said she would decide over the holiday break.

The signed waivers accepting or rejecting the allowance were supposed to be turned in to the Township hall Human Resources office by Friday, Dec. 14.

Councillors who say no have the option of changing their mind “at any time in the future” the waiver form notes.

The travel allowance would have added $850 a month to the mayor’s compensation and will add $340 a month to the three councillors who accepted, Ward, Dornan and Ferguson.

Ward has said council should follow the recommendations of the independent council remuneration task force that proposed it. Ferguson has said he plans to donate the money to charity. Dornan said she donates a portion of her salary to charity.

Those who rejected the allowance have cited a variety of reasons.

Davis said he is still not comfortable deciding his own pay hike.

Fox said members of council already get a break on their travel costs, courtesy of a Revenue Canada policy that 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 would be declining “at least for this year” because he doesn’t travel as much as some other members of council.

Richter said it was too soon after the December 2011 council pay hikes.

A year ago, the mayor’s annual salary went up by 12.6 per cent and councillor pay rates rose by 19 percent in what the task force referred to as a “catch-up” hike after several years of no raises.

Those hikes took effect when the new council took office in December, 2011.

The waiver form notes that the travel allowance is a taxable benefit that will be reported on a councillor’s T4.

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 would have added $10,200 on top of his salary of $105,456, an increase of 9.7 per cent.

There will be no salary increase as such next year, after council voted to scale back the increase recommended by the task force.

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