More than half of next year’s capital budget is going toward the needs of a new
Surrey Police Department, leaving members of the arts and sports community crying foul.
In the 2018 budget, Surrey had earmarked $29 million for a new Cloverdale Sport and Ice complex and $10 million for land acquisition and feasibility study for a Performing Arts Space.
Both were shelved under the newly elected city council last year.
The Cloverdale complex was shelved last year, but the current five-year plan has $10 million set aside in 2024. A sheet of ice is estimated to cost $15 million, so many are wondering what that will cover.
Ellie King, a long-time Surrey actor, director and theatre advocate, told Pulse FM in an interview this city desperately needs new community theatre space.
She points to the city’s own award-winning Parks, Recreation, and Culture Strategic Plan 2018-2027 as evidence to the need.
The plan calls for integrated community art space in Clayton, Newton and Guildford.
King says that none of those has seen the light of day on the civic budgets.
The draft 5-year capital plan earmarks $850,000 for the arts, $500,000 for Surrey Little Theatre and $350,000 for improvements to the Surrey Arts Centre (SAC).
King says the city has 17 recreation centres, but only one public arts facility (SAC).
The capital budget has greatly dwindled over the past few years.
In 2018, the city had $97.7 million in projects scheduled, which dropped to $33 million in 2019.
The plan for next year is to have that drop to $17 million, but with another $25.2 million being set aside for Surrey Police Department Capital and Transition requirements.
Those include police technology, uniforms, office equipment and fleet transition costs.
King says she doesn’t understand what the “almost obsessive” drive is the switch to a municipal police force. The policing currently in place can be extremely effective, she says, as long as they are given the resources.
Surrey is not hiring new police officers this year or next year.
King says when budgets get tight, it seems arts is always the place to feel the cuts.
“Is it not always the way, when money is needed for something else, it’s taken from arts and culture?” King asks. “And that is ever the case.”
The public hearing on the five year plan is being held at city hall, Dec. 2 at 1 p.m.