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Hamilton councillors step close to posting expenses online

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton residents are close to a click away from finding out how their councillor is spending their tax dollars.

It could be the summer before councillors’ expenses will be up on the city’s website for review.

The idea, say city staff, is the public will be able to click on a particular politician, and view a wide range of expenses, such a travel, office and sponsorship. But residents won’t be able to delve deeper into specific areas of what councillors spend their budgets on.

Staff says because of the limits of the city’s website technology, the public won’t be able to see a particular sponsorship cost, or travel destination.

“It’s a huge step forward,” said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark. “I’m really pleased with where we are. I’d like to have the best and most recent information.”

At the moment, politicians’ expenses are provided to council once a year in a report that is duly approved by council with little debate.

 In addition, uploading councillors expenses will take a little longer this year because city staff has to work withHamilton’s development team that is revamping the city’s aging website. Mike Zegarac, corporate finance general manager, said he will try to get councillors expenses on the website “as soon as possible” but it will depend upon how quickly the website had been improved. Politicians and staff still have to decide whether they will put up councillors’ expenses monthly, quarterly, or weekly.

Some politicians, such as Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, already put their expenses on their website for the public to review. For the last few years councillors legislative budget has been below expectations, saving taxpayers money, said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark.

Mayor Bob Bratina has been saying to various community groups he has saved about $1 million in his office budget by not hiring extra people as previous mayors have done.

Hamilton politicians move to post their expenses online comes soon after theOntariogovernment recently passed legislation to post expenses of MPPs, cabinet ministers and parliamentary assistants online.

Of municipalities, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calls the City o f Toronto the “gold standard” after its councillors agreed a few years ago to post their expenses quarterly online. Other municipalities that also do so include the City of Vaughan, the City of Mississauga, and the City of Edmonton.

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