City council expense stipend part of non-accountable plan - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

City council expense stipend part of non-accountable plan

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - A proposal to boost the salaries of city council members is circulating city hall.

It would double the salaries of council members from $200 to $400 a month.

Outgoing councilman Chris Olson pitched the idea as an incentive to reward council members for their efforts.

Among the talk of council members' salaries, is discussions about the $150 monthly expense account they each receive, and how that money is monitored.

"It does not cover my expenses," said council president Audrey Kader.

The account is used on Internet, printers, among other supplies needed for work.

And, there's no paper trail. The city doesn't need the receipts.

"It wasn't worth the trouble," Kader said. "It's easier to just pay the income tax on it and then claim it back on the income tax."

"We treat this, according to the IRS, as a non-accountable plan," said La Crosse Director of Finance Wayne Delagrave. "In other words, the council members are not required to submit receipts to receive reimbursement. In exchange for that, the $150 becomes taxable wages to them."

The council members do have the option to submit their receipts to the city, Delagrave said. If they do, they offset the tax on the expense account.

"We haven't had anybody submit receipts in a couple of years," he said.

So, council members need to wait for an income tax return.

The city doesn't have a formal record on how these expense accounts are used.

But one council member recommended boosting the amount $25 to help supplement additional costs that come out of council members' wallets.

If a formal proposal is made and approved, each expense account would total $175.

La Crosse Mayor Matt Harter said council members don't take their job for the money; they take it to better the community.

That idea applies to expense accounts as well.

"Very small stipends is what we provide for our council members," Harter said. "As far as increasing by a very negligible amount, I think for the small amount that we're talking about, it probably does not warrant the discussion."

The proposal to boost council members' salaries is still making its way through city hall.

If approved, the pay increase would take effect for the spring 2015 term.

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