Surrey taxpayers are looking at increases of more than $360 on their municipal tax bill next year as the city scrambles for ways to pay for a planned police department.
Property taxes are being held to 2.9 per cent ($59), according to a corporate report released Nov. 14. However, huge increases loom behind that.
The report also calls for a one-time 15 per cent increase ($305) for police transition, and an increased (starting in 2021) of 10 per cent ($203) to cover the costs of a new police force.
It brings to $364 the taxes for next year for the owner of the average home in Surrey.
Businesses will also be digging deeper of up to $39.80 per $1,000 assessed value.
Surrey residents will also have to shell out more at recreation centres, facility rentals, business and dog licences, to name a few as the city implements a 2.9 per cent increase in fees across the board, which will bring the city $2.8 million more next year.
In addition to those increases, the city is also cutting costs.
Surrey is continuing a freeze on hiring new employees next year.
“Outside of staffing related to new city facilities, there will be no additional staffing increases,” General Manager of Finance Kam Grewal writes in his report to council. “… it is noted that this is not a long-term sustainable strategy.”
The city is also shelving capital expenditures, such as a long-promised $15-million ice arena in Cloverdale.
Despite the $26.3 million those initiatives will generate next year, the city is still falling short of its needs to pay for the $34.9 million in increased costs.
The corporate report calls for drawing from surpluses to pay for the $8.6 million difference.
Surrey Coun. Linda Annis said the promise of a new police department is “sucking” the life out of the rest of the city budget.
“You only have to look at the draft budget in any detail and it’s easy to see that the proposed Surrey Police Department (SPD) is being pushed forward by the mayor and his four councilors at a cost to absolutely everything else in our city,” said Annis. “Forget about new city infrastructure, road repairs, new rinks or much-needed additional police and fire fighters for our growing city. This budget has just one thing on its mind and that’s funding the mayor’s police department. There’s nothing else on his radar screen.”
The public will have an opportunity to speak on the budget at the Dec. 2 meeting of council.