GUYSBOROUGH – Transparency and municipal spending among Nova Scotia's municipalities have garnered media attention over the past year, including for the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. Last week MODG held a special council meeting where new policies were adopted, including one that will see councillor expenses published online on a monthly basis.
One issue has been the use of taxpayers money to pay for alcohol, both for business meetings and for councillors and staff in the form of meal allowances. Warden Vernon Pitts stated in an email responding to questions from The Journal that this practice would not be changed, because of the municipality's business-focused approach and because receipts are not required for per diems. “Council or staff claiming per diems are given a flat rate per meal,” he said.
Minister of Municipal Affairs Zach Churchill has said that senior officials should disclose any taxpayer money spent on food or alcohol, but Pitts argues against this practice. “MODG is not like other municipalities. We operate under a corporate business model. If we operated solely under a municipal model, it would be hard for us to survive on municipal taxation as only 7.51 per cent of our revenues come from residential taxation and 28 per cent come from our commercial taxation including the gas industry. More than 64 per cent of our revenues comes from mostly our business activities, thus we need to carry out our activities with a business-focussed approach.”
Further to that line of thinking, hospitality expenses will not be published online. Pitts wrote, “Warden and Councillor travel expenses only will be posted. All other expenses for the municipality will be covered off in the year end audits.”
In other business, the positions of Warden and Deputy Warden were won by acclamation by Vernon Pitts and Sheila Pelly respectively.