The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale is spending up to twice as much on elected members than its neighbouring local governments according to the MyCouncil website.
In the 2014-15 financial year, Serpentine Jarrahdale spent more than $4.2 million on governance, representing 16.45 per cent of its annual budget.
In the same year, the Shire of Murray spent $2 million, representing 8.85 per cent of its annual budget.
Each shire has nine councillors.
The City of Armadale, which has 14 councillors, spent $3.5 million on governance, representing just 4.1 per cent.
Figures over the last five years show the amount each local government area spent on governance remained fairly consistent.
Governance costs cover activities that support local governments’ decision-making processes.
Spending includes elected members fees, allowances and administrative support as well as costs incurred assisting elected members and ratepayers on matters that do not relate to specific council services.
Serpentine Jarrahdale was also spending more on employee costs, even as its population growth and the growth in revenue from rates slows down.
Employee growth costs jumped from an increase of 2.24 per cent in 2013-14 to an increase of 12.5 per cent the following year.
In the same period the growth in revenue received by rates went from 11.68 per cent in 2013-14 to 13.09 per cent, while population growth went from 6.64 to 6.76.
In the same timeframe, employee cost growth in Armadale dropped from 12.27 per cent to 5.54 per cent while Murray jumped from 6.73 per cent to 14.3 per cent.
Another spending difference between the councils was in recreation and culture, which saw Serpentine Jarrahdale dedicate 15.35 per cent of its 2014-15 budget to that area, while Murray dedicated 25.76 per cent and Armadale 24.74 per cent.
According to the website the category is for activities to provide services and facilities that support the social wellbeing of the community.
It includes public halls, civic centres, aquatic and recreation centres, sporting facilities, beaches, parks, gardens, playgrounds, libraries, museums and other cultural facilities.
Financial health indicators showed Serpentine Jarrahdale had gained ground in 2014-15 with a rating of 86 out of 100 compared with the previous year, when it was at a low of 53.
The state average was 71 for both years, while Armadale received a score of 86 in 2014-15, down from 95 the previous year.
Murray also did well in 2014-15 with a score of 91, up from 46 the previous year.
Serpentine Jarrahdale shire president John Erren said governance spending included $936,000 on councillors’ costs and $3.37 million on ‘costs of the Executive and Customer Services’.
“It would seem other local governments apportion these costs to other programs within the list of programs according to Schedule 1 (of the Local Government Financial Management Regulations),” he said.
“This practice is currently under review.”
He said the shire had spent less on employee costs in 2013/14 and 2014/15 than budgeted, with the number of vacancies less in 2014/15 than the previous year.
He said it was difficult to say why the shire spent less on recreation and culture than its neighbours ‘without knowing details about what other local governments attribute costs and how they are charged to each of their programs’.
“As the fastest growing community in the country, a significant portion of the shire’s budget is committed to delivering basic services such as roads maintenance and parks and recreation,” he said.