The Auckland Council has confessed that the cost of a message from Mayor Len Brown to ratepayers was $376,774 - not the $200,000 quoted in a council email.
About 500,000 copies of the glossy flyer were sent to every ratepayer, despite concerns from one of Mr Brown's senior advisers that there were cheaper and more effective ways to communicate a message on rates.
The flyer included a letter from the mayor praising the council for making cost savings in hard times to keep the rates increase down to 3.94 per cent.
Mr Brown did not tell ratepayers the council had set aside $516,000 for an information campaign about the new rating system, of which $376,774 was spent on producing, printing and posting out the flyer.
The rest of the money was spent on an insert into the first rates mailout next month, and on advertising.
On Wednesday, Mr Brown's office and the council media unit refused to give a breakdown of the cost of the flyer after the Herald obtained, under the Official Information Act, a council email putting it at $200,000.
After another request yesterday, the Herald was given the true cost.
An email trail showed Mr Brown's chief press secretary, Glyn Jones, and senior political adviser Conor Roberts were keen on the flyer after council officials referred it to the mayor's office.
Another senior mayoral adviser, former Papakura District Council chief executive Theresa Stratton, agreed it was a good idea but "quite an expensive exercise".
She said it would be much cheaper if it were included in next month's first rates mailout.
Yesterday, Mr Brown said he was not told of Ms Stratton's concerns about the flyer's cost and effectiveness.
"If it costs a little bit of money to ensure people are well informed about the thing that is most critical to them, and that's their rates, then I suspect it is a cost well spent," he said.
Councillor Cameron Brewer said the flyer was an outrageous way to use ratepayers' money.
He said Mr Brown was "using this flyer not just to explain the facts, but to make himself look better politically".