Councillor office budgets get one-time top-up from OLG hosting fund

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The additional $29,000 for every councillor who opted in only applies to 2023. City spending $50,000 to hire third-party consultant to study 2024 office budgets. Photo credit: City of Hamilton


After the topic of councillor office budgets was brought up for a third time, councillors voted yes to a one-time top up of their 2023 allocated funding using Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) funds rather than taxpayer dollars.

Waterdown receives a portion of Flamborough slots proceeds from OLG. As such, Waterdown Councillor Ted McMeekin offered up $260,000 from that fund to supplement councillors’ 2023 office budgets and to be divided up between whichever members decided to opt-in. 

While the funds are not from taxpayers, they usually go towards community projects rather than office budgets.

Councillors voted 10-3 in support of the top-up, with councillors Tom Jackson, Brad Clark and Mike Spadafora against.

The top-up comes after multiple attempts to increase office budgets using taxpayer dollars failed.

Despite approval of the policy by ten councillors, only nine have decided to opt-in: Craig Cassar, John-Paul Danko, Tammy Hwang, Cameron Kroetsch, Ted McMeekin, Nrinder Nann, Esther Pauls, Alex Wilson, and Maureen Wilson. 

Each will split the $260,000, receiving approximately $29,000 in extra funds to pay staff, send mailers, hold events, or spend on other office-related activities.

Those who have opted out include Jeff Beattie, Brad Clark, Matt Francis, Tom Jackson, Mike Spadafora, and Mark Tadeson.

In May, councillors decided that they also want a study to be conducted to determine what changes to the office budgets should be made for 2024.

In previous office budget reviews, councillors had city staff complete the work but staff indicated that they would have to put off other work in order to put together a proper analysis in time for 2024 budget deliberations.

As such, councillors settled on hiring a consultant to examine the budgets in what will cost taxpayers $50,000.

While members unanimously approved conducting a review of the office budgets, the vote to spend $50,000 on a consultant went 13-2 with Councillors Kroetsch and Maureen Wilson instead wanting staff to conduct the review.

These latest developments in the ongoing debate regarding ward office budgets follow other motions brought forward in 2022 and 2023.

Councillor Kroetsch brought forward the initial proposal to increase each of the 15 councillors’ office budgets by $80,000 each, a move that would have cost taxpayers an additional $1.2 million. 

Each councillor currently has a budget between $285,000 and $313,000, depending on the ward. The increase would have worked out to about 27 per cent extra. 

The proposal was defeated on a close vote 8-6 as part of early discussions.

But Kroetsch came back with a new motion to instead increase councillor budgets by $40,000 each in what would have cost taxpayers an additional $600,000.

That proposal ultimately failed in the final March 29 budget vote in an 8-8 tie.

Councillor Kroetsch was joined by Councillors A. Wilson and Nann in strongly supporting the policy.

They argued that they want to increase public engagement in their wards, be able to respond to residents on social media, by phone, and email in a faster and more thorough manner, and be able to pay their staff better wages.

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