SURREY First councillors Linda Annis and Mike Bose on Tuesday slammed Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke for her threats of a 17.5 per cent tax increase worth more than $400 for the average home.
Annis said: “We’re still dealing with a lot of financial assumptions about the cost of keeping the Surrey Police Service, or continuing with the RCMP, and that lack of solid information has bothered me right from the start. An independent set of eyes on numbers provided by the RCMP and the SPS would have ensured we had the best and most accurate information, something we still do not have, and something that’s critical to making good financial decisions for the city. Facts, not fiction, that’s what we need as we build the 2023 budget.”
Annis said keeping the SPS would save millions in severance costs, but keeping the SPS means higher annual policing costs than those charged by the contracted RCMP.
“The Mayor says the SPS would cost about $250 million more than the RCMP over the next five years, but the SPS disputes that figure,” said Annis. “Again, we don’t have a credible third party checking any of these claims, and as a result, our 2023 budget is being built on sand rather than a bedrock of facts we can count on. For instance, the budget makes a big assumption that if the SPS is disbanded that half of the SPS members would join the RCMP. SPS members are more likely to join another municipal police service, like the Vancouver Police Department, which is looking for 100 new officers. It is unlikely that very many SPS members will decide to join the RCMP, which is a completely different organization and culture. Every police force is hiring, so it is more likely SPS members will go to municipal forces than the RCMP.”
Bose said he wants City Hall to look at options, rather than imposing a damaging tax increase on families and businesses in a single year.
“There isn’t a family or business in Surrey that isn’t stretched right now, and the last thing our community needs is City Hall making their lives harder,” said Bose. “This financial mess wasn’t created by the residents of Surrey. But like every mistake made by incompetent and short-sighted politicians, taxpayers are the ones that have to clean it up. So, I’m saying to my colleagues at City Hall, we should be looking at ways to limit or reduce the pain.”
Annis said one option would be a more affordable increase brought in gradually over three or four years.
“There’s an old rule in politics that you do the unpopular things early in your term, because people might forget by the next election,” said Annis. “But a 17.5 per cent increase in a single year is a lot more than many people can handle, and I doubt any of us will forget about it down the road. Frankly, it’s incumbent on all of us on Council to look at the financial capacity of our citizens and find options that don’t damage families and local businesses over the long term. It’s the least we can do, particularly when the problem we’re facing started right here at city hall in the first place.”