Trusting our mayors with our money
At the recent council meeting, a policy was passed authorising an increase in expenditure for the newly elected mayor from $10,000 to $100,000.
This figure far exceeds authorised expenditure for any other mayor in the region. In fact, the only other council with similar funding in place is Kyogle Council, which allows its newly elected mayor Ross Brown access to $3000.
Richmond Valley Council General Manager Brian Wilkinson said that council staff had recommended the $90,000 increase so that 'in the case of an emergency, the mayor could get things moving immediately'.
“I couldn't give the mayor an open-ended figure, so I think this was an appropriate amount to cover any potential event that could arise,” Mr Wilkinson said.
Cr Sullivan said the $10,000 authorised expenditure previously in place had only been used once since 2000.
“The money would only be used in an emergency when there wasn't enough time to hold an extraordinary meeting,” he said.
Cr Sullivan said while it was comforting to know such funds were available, he wouldn't be taking the decision to spend council's money lightly.
“I wouldn't go out and buy a new car with it,” he said.
Supporting the increase was former mayor Charlie Cox, who said: “If the council can't trust the mayor, what type of council are we?”
Opposing the increase was Cr Donella Kinnish, who said a 'ten-fold increase in the fund was unnecessary'.
While the policy was approved by Richmond Valley Council, there was no time limit attached to the decision and the council can review, vary or revoke the decision.
Lismore City Council General Manager Paul O'Sullivan said the decision not to authorise expenditure to Lismore's mayor in an emergency was not a reflection on the mayor's character.
He said authorising up to $100,000 for the mayor in Richmond Valley was an 'unusual' decision.
Mr O'Sullivan couldn't recall a situation in Lismore where funding of $100,000 had been urgently required.
He said work done by council staff in the aftermath of January's flood had exceeded $100,000, but all costs were reported retrospectively to the council and paid as they arose.
Byron Shire Council's Manager of Finance, Jim Bolger, said while Byron's mayor couldn't authorise expenditure during an emergency, there were adequate funds in the budget to cover costs.
Amount authorised by each council for use by the mayor without calling an extraordinary meeting:
Ballina Shire Council: $0
Kyogle Council: $3000
Richmond Valley Council: $100,000
Byron Shire Council: $0
Lismore City Council: $0