Every year, the 23 members of council are given a global budget to pay their staff, run their office and engage with constituents.
At the start of each term, councillors receive a separate $10,000 for IT equipment — allowing them to choose their own computers and cellphones — but everything else has to be paid for through that global budget.
The budget rises slightly each year to coincide with the cost-of-living increase. In 2017, each councillor had $257,723 at his or her disposal.
Should councillors overspend, they have to pay back the additional spending out of their own pockets. But they never do overspend. In fact, all councillors return a least a little money at the end of each year — and some return tens of thousands each year.
It's good to know who spent the most, or the least. However, the total cash a councillor returns to the city each year doesn't necessarily indicate who's the most frugal. Wards vary vastly in size and population, and some councillors think budgets should be based on the number of constituents they serve.
A closer look at which Ottawa councillors spent the most in 2017.
Breakdown per household
One way to look at how councillors spend is to consider what they spend per household, instead of by population.
After all, it seems unlikely that two partners would individually engage a councillor on a city issue — they would likely do it together, or one person would represent the household. And children are even more unlikely be to calling a councillor's office with questions or problems.
That's why, along with how much each councillor spent each year since 2015, we've included the spending per-household.
Totals for 2017 will be updated once the city makes that information public.