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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford directs questions during a committee meeting on the city's waterfront plans Sep. 6, 2011 at City Hall. The mayor and his brother councillor Doug Ford are proposing dramatic changes to the already approved development of the waterfront lands.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

While Mayor Rob Ford regularly says he spends less on his office than did his predecessor David Miller, part of the reason is that some of the mayor's expenses have been transferred to city council's general budget.

The mayor's office is touting his first-year accomplishments, including the fulfilment of pledges to limit politician spending. Mr. Ford's brother Doug, councillor for Etobicoke North, circulated a list of the administration's achievements on Friday, noting that the mayor has saved $700,000 by reducing his office budget from $2.7-million to $2-million.

Much of that comes from the fact Mr. Ford relies on fewer staff than his predecessor. However, changes in the way the mayor's office expenses are allocated – a new council expense policy was approved last January – suggests some of the savings may have resulted from costs such as telecom and telephone services and insurance reserve contributions being absorbed in a different city budget.

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Mr. Ford acknowledged as much in an Aug. 24 letter to City of Toronto Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper obtained by The Globe and Mail.

For example, Mr. Miller's 2010 expenses include $11,513.98 for Bell phone service. No comparable figure appears on Mr. Ford's current budget because the mayor's office is no longer required to publicly report such services as an expense.

"If you're going to compare 2010 and 2011, and you're being responsible, you should be sure you're comparing apples to apples," said Jude MacDonald, a Toronto resident who earlier in the year filed a complaint about the mayor's office expense reports to Ms. Leiper.

In his list of achievements, Mr. Ford also said his administration has saved taxpayers $899,000 by reducing councillor expenses from $50,455 to $30,000. But that total could only be realized if every councillor in the previous term had maxed out their office budgets, including famously low-spending politicians like Doug Holyday and Mr. Ford himself.

Nor is the office budget controversy limited to public expenses. For the third quarter in a row, Councillor Doug Ford has reported that he hasn't spent a cent of public or private money on his office operation, despite a city policy requiring members of council to submit invoices for all expenses paid out of pocket.

During Councillor Josh Matlow's Sunday NewsTalk1010 radio show, Mr. Ford responded to questions about his expenses, saying that he brings "pens from home" but otherwise eschews spending money on "self-promoting brochures."

His comments brought an on-air challenge from Councillor Sarah Doucette (Parkdale-High Park). "I do want to say to Councillor Ford that I have no objection if he's able to help by using his money … I just think that for transparency, we should be seeing a dollar figure on his line, according to the office expense policy."

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