South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto … “wanted to set the record straight” about councillors’ expenses

May 14, 2020

Mayor Brett Otto has responded to the May 11 report about the Expenses Reimbursement vote taken at the recent South Burnett Regional Council meeting.

In fairness, southburnett.com.au has presented Mayor Otto’s statement in full:

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South Burnett Regional Council Mayor Cr Brett Otto would like to set the record straight regarding recent speculation on Councillor’s remuneration and expenses reimbursement following the adoption of Council’s Expenses Reimbursement Policy at the May General meeting.

“Following a recent report and subsequent comments regarding Councillors’ pay rises and reimbursement of expenses, I would like to provide some additional information to inform the community on the resolution made by Council regarding Council’s Expenses Reimbursement Policy for Councillors,” Mayor Otto said.

“Council, at the May General meeting has adopted an Expenses Reimbursement Policy for Councillors in accordance with the Local Government Regulation 2012. The policy ensures compliance with statutory requirements and community expectations relating to the payment or reimbursement of legitimate expenses and the provision of facilities. It also ensures Councillors have the facilities and support necessary to perform their civic duties as elected representatives of their local communities.

“Even though Councillors may be eligible to claim certain expenses, this does not necessarily mean that these expenses are being claimed, indeed, Councillors often pay for their own meals when travelling out of the region on Council business and do not bother claiming such. On occasions when claims are submitted they are only paid upon the production of receipts which are often for less than the allowable limit.

“The vehicle use reimbursement amounts represent a conservative approach. Had councillors chosen to be reimbursed on a cents per kilometre basis using the standard rate provided by the ATO the cost to Council would be far greater when one considers the large number of kilometres travelled by rural councillors across our region in the ordinary course of conducting Council business. Furthermore, the previously provided Mayor’s vehicle has now been returned to the fleet, saving Council the cost of replacing one of the older vehicles, with the Mayor using his own car and paying all of his Council travel costs inside the region out of his own pocket.

“I urge all residents to read Council’s Expenses Reimbursement Policy for Councillors, which provides a full list of expenses which Councillors can be reimbursed, in conjunction with the Annual Report, which reflects actual reimbursements claimed by Councillors.”

The following table provides a history of reimbursements as previously provided by Council:

Remuneration levels for Councillors are set by an independent State Government convened Tribunal: the Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal. Each year the Tribunal undertakes a review of the remuneration levels and publishes a report with their recommendations.

“Since 2008, Queensland’s Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal (the Tribunal) has determined the salaries paid to elected Local Government representatives, based on a percentage of the salaries paid to elected State Government representatives,” Mayor Otto said.

“There are nine categories of Councils in Queensland. South Burnett Regional Council is in Category 3, along with Gympie, Southern Downs, Western Downs, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and others.

“Up until 2012, the Tribunal set a minimum and maximum salary range for each Category and Councils in that Category could opt for a salary within that range. However from 2012, the Tribunal discontinued this practice and instead established a single remuneration level. The salaries of Mayors, Deputy Mayors and Councillors are now the same across all Category 3 councils.

“When the remuneration schedule is published each year, Councillors are automatically paid the recommended salary levels unless (within 90 days), Council decides by resolution to pay a lesser
amount, with any decision to be recorded as such in Council’s Budget.”

Information on the Local Government Remuneration Commission Annual Report 2019 can be found at http://www.dlgrma.qld.gov.au/resources/report/local-government/local-government-remuneration-commission-report-2019.pdf

[UPDATE: The vote was taken at the April meeting]


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5 Responses to "Mayor Defends Expenses Policy"

  1. Confused  May 14, 2020

    Your previous article stated that the Councillors voted unanimously to increase the value of expenses.

    The following paragraph that indicates that the Tribunal sets the salaries paid………..not the Councillors.

    Since 2008, Queensland’s Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal (the Tribunal) has determined the salaries paid to elected Local Government representatives, based on a percentage of the salaries paid to elected State Government representatives,” Mayor Otto said.

    “When the remuneration schedule is published each year, Councillors are automatically paid the recommended salary levels unless (within 90 days), Council decides by resolution to pay a lesser amount, with any decision to be recorded as such in Council’s Budget.”

    SO ARE THE 90 DAYS UP??? Has the council handed down the budget? I dont think so.

    Please explain, as this is as clear as mud.

    Reply
  2. Bill McIntyre  May 15, 2020

    The most obvious and basic question then is: if Councillors are not claiming this or only claim an amount up to this, why change it in the first place? Seriously there’s no situation in which a Councillor should be claiming a meal in the ball park of $100. The Mayor promised he would not take any of this reimbursement in the campaign but he is now increasing it and trying to defend this at only his second meeting. That’s why people are angry and wondering what he is going to try and crab walk away from next.

    Reply
  3. News Desk  May 15, 2020

    Confused, Councillors receive two streams of remuneration: their salaries – which are set by the independent Remuneration Tribunal – and their work expenses, which are set by Councillors themselves.

    As our previous article reported, the Remuneration Tribunal has already determined all Queensland Mayors and Councillors should receive a 2 per cent wage increase from July this year.

    Mayor Otto is correct in saying Councillors are at liberty to accept a wage lower than the one set by the Tribunal if they wish.

    They can do this by making a resolution to that effect within 90 days of the new pay rates coming into force (ie by the end of September 2020). And if this occurs, we will report it.

    Reply
  4. Lucy  May 18, 2020

    Holding my breath waiting the 90 days to learn whether Councillors will show some goodwill and accept a wage lower that the one set by the Tribunal!

    Mayor Otto’s explanations may all be correct and above board. However, what probably annoys a lot of ratepayers is the fact that one of the first and obviously very important things the re-elected and newly elected Councillors found to do was to look after their own financial interests. So much for community spirit. Will you show some when you consider the rates?

    Reply
  5. Andrew  May 19, 2020

    Hi Lucy, I agree it is a bad look. Especially when rates will continue to rise.

    Have a look at two recent opinion pieces: https://southburnett.com.au/news2/2020/04/16/we-live-in-interesting-times/ and https://southburnett.com.au/news2/2020/03/27/be-careful-what-you-wish-for/
    These really do sum things up for us.

    Want lower rates. get more ratepayers, that is the only way councilors can lower the rates. They may want to but they can’t.

    I hope the people elected have vision, create jobs and get people moving into the area. Then they deserve what they get paid, maybe even a bigger pay rise.

    Reply

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