Surrey property tax could rise for policing: ‘We have no choice’
Posted February 18, 2023 5:00 pm.
Last Updated March 5, 2023 4:16 pm.
The City of Surrey is proposing to raise property taxes by 17.5 per cent in 2023 with more than half of the proposed increase going towards paying for the police transition.
The city is proposing a 9.5 per cent property tax increase to fund what it calls the “policing shortfall” in 2023. That’s on top of a seven per cent increase to pay for general inflationary pressures, city-wide operations, and the hiring of 25 new police officers, 20 firefighters and 10 new bylaw officers. There’s also a one per cent roads and traffic levy.
The 9.5 per cent increase for policing costs will continue for 2024 and 2025, though the city says it’s likely that could change.
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke says she’s not happy about having to put the budget forward.
“There is probably not a mayor in Metro Vancouver that would want to put a budget forward like this, but we have no choice. Unfortunately, the poor management of the previous council has left us in this very challenging position. But we’re going to be accountable to the public and we’re telling the public exactly what we have to do.”
Locke says this budget is based on the RCMP remaining as the police of jurisdiction. She says there’s a shortfall of $116.6 million from costs associated with transitioning to the Surrey Police Service. The province has yet to weigh in on the future of policing in Surrey, so Locke says council has to “take care of its business” and put forward a budget based on the information it has today.
“Council voted to keep RCMP as the police of jurisdiction. If there’s something that comes back different from the province we’ll deal with that at the time. We have to go with what we know. Council made a decision to keep the RCMP and that’s how we’re moving forward.”
Locke had previously warned of property taxes of up to 55 per cent if the transition to the Surrey Police Service continued.
Locke says there’s still time for the numbers in the proposed budget to change before it’s formally adopted. Even if the budget goes ahead as is, Locke says Surrey will still be in the lower half of tax burden for cities in the Metro Vancouver region.
“It’s not written in stone,” she said. “An average family home with all three of these taxes together equates to $403 a year. That’s significant, there’s no doubt about it, but that’s what it equates to. Looking at percentages doesn’t always tell you the story, but I’m not trying to undersell it because it is a significant tax increase.”
A public meeting of the city’s finance committee will be held on March 6 at 2 p.m. to go over the budget. Residents can give comment in person or through written submissions. The deadline for written submissions is noon on Friday, March 3.