Rhino's Ramblings - The Mayormobile Gets A Flat


The Mayormobile Gets A Flat

It was something which gave snickers to a lot people and that is Mayor Fraser Tolmie attempting to have his car allowance increased from the $100 monthly he receives to the same $500 per month City Manager Jim Puffalt receives.

In his argument Mayor Tolmie stated he drove around Moose Jaw just as much as the City Manager did and because of that deserved the same $500. It was an argument that quickly lost traction on a slippery Moose Jaw street. 

The comments I heard went from the common stuff whenever a politician asks for a pay increase right up to stuff totally obscene. Politicians of any stripe asking for any type of raise or increased benefits always draws the ire of the everyday taxpayer. For myself personally it is just the nature of the beast and simply part of our apathetic times when it comes to politics in general.

But is Mayor Tolmie right to request his car allowance compensation be increased? Is this just a tax grab by someone trying to bring in more cash into his personal pockets at the expense of you and me?

You are not going to believe me on this one and that is I actually agree with Mayor Tolmie the car allowance is way below what he should be receiving. 

I know people are going to say I might be growing soft but in reality I am not, I am basing things upon real world facts.

If you remember Council’s decision to cut the bus fares in half one of the things Mayor Tolmie stated at the time is whenever possible he was going to take City transit. An almost bald faced admission in many people's minds that the Mayor of Moose Jaw does not need his own vehicle.

But in reality being the mayor of the Friendly City really requires you to have a car. 

As the Mayor of Moose Jaw there are many functions, events and meetings you have to and should attend as the mayor within the city. In my opinion its a job you cannot do with a bus pass. 

There are many events the mayor is required to attend throughout his duties, ones which he cannot take the bus nor walk to. It is just the nature of the job. You cannot have the mayor waiting on a street corner for a bus to come and pick him up.

So it is time to face the facts the mayor needs a vehicle, a means to get around. 

With that said the City of Moose Jaw does not have a dedicated vehicle nor a driver for the mayor to utilize. The mayor must use their own vehicle. 

Under the City of Moose Jaw's policies the mayor, or anyone else working for the City in a position of influence, cannot accept or utilize a donated vehicle. So the City cannot accept a donated or loaned vehicle for the mayor or others to use. The ethical dilemmas are endless on that one and I personally think so would be the repercussions of people crying vote buying in my opinion justifiably made. 

That leaves the City looking at buying or providing a dedicated vehicle or a driver for the mayor. 

Now ask yourself quite truthfully as a taxpayer do you really want to spend $30,000 or more on a vehicle dedicated to get the mayor around the city? 

Or do you want to contract out a taxi or shuttle to drive the mayor around to various events, functions as well as meetings? Are you willing to foot perhaps up to $1000 per month to tender out taxi service for the mayor? Is that practical?

The cheapest and most cost effective route is for the mayor to use his own personal vehicle. And that gets us back to the big question what truly is proper and adequate compensation for the mayor to use his own vehicle? Is $100 per month adequate or are we as taxpayers shortchanging the mayor?

To get to the bottom of this I used industry standards when it came to what Mayor Tolmie's car allowance.

I took a look at what businesses are allowed to do when it comes to tax free vehicle allowances by Revenue Canada. It is what business owners in Moose Jaw can do legally when it comes to using their own personal vehicles on the job. 

It is what the City of Saskatoon does when it comes to compensating their councillors for personal vehicle use. 

What Saskatoon does is use the rates established by Revenue Canada and they pay a tax free kilometre allowance based upon .55/km for the first 5000 kilometres and .49/kilometre each councillor drives after that while doing City of Saskatoon business.

A look at the car allowances paid show a wide variety with one Saskatoon councillor putting in claims of over $3,000 for personal vehicle use while another put in a claim of $0. 

Using the Saskatoon figures and what Revenue Canada recognizes as allowable and reasonable amounts I took a look at one Saturday of Mayor Tolmie's schedule -  a day many of us consider an off day if we work Monday to Friday 9-5. Working part of any Saturday is something Mayor Tolmie or any mayor for the City of Moose Jaw should be doing. 

What I did was drove from Mayor Tolmie's home to all of the various places he drove as he attended events one Saturday and then drove straight back to his home. I cannot say I took the same route as the Mayor and he may have had other places he stopped at on his route. But what I found was the Mayor drove at least 42 kilometres on that day.

Now if you take the 42 kilometres and multiply it by .55 per kilometre what you get is $23.10. 

You have to really ask yourself if this is an average Saturday for the Mayor? If so then Mayor Tolmie would use up close to one-quarter of his car allowance in just one Saturday if he was compensated in the same manner as councillors in Saskatoon. 

It all begs the question is Mayor Tolmie being shortchanged? And if we were in the same situation what would our response be to all of this? Would we not be trying to limit the use of our own personal vehicle or be asking our employer to compensate us accordingly?

Now is the $500 paid to Mr Puffalt for his car allowance the same the mayor should be receiving as argued by Mayor Tolmie? 

Although it might seem fair to Mayor Tolmie at the same time what Mr Puffalt receives was the same as his predecessor Matt Noble received and in both instances that was negotiated by both city managers while being hired. It is part of their negotiated contracts. This is what they requested or were offered as part of their contracts they negotiated. It is something we all are able to do when anybody hires us.

Whether we get it or not that is up to the employer. In the case of an elected official the car allowance comes as part of the deal the mayor can negotiate and vote on at Council.

But what about the mayor? By my tertiary look it well appears he is being short changed. 

Now I know there are going to be many out there who are going to say their jobs short change them as well, but I would ask the question how do you feel about it? How would you like to be treated when it came to using your private vehicle for your job? 

At the present time Administration is generating a report into how to best compensate our elected officials -  something which is an entirely different issue. One which for many is not justified in the least.

But at the same time when it comes to the mayor and his car allowance perhaps he needs to maintain an accurate kilometre log which relates to his use of his personal vehicle for his official duties and then we go from there. 

I am willing to bet when it comes to Mayor Tolmie and his personal vehicle use for City business around the city we are shortchanging him and maybe it’s time we move to more fairer and reasonable compensation. 

When it comes to Council’s pay increases well that is a different matter........

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