Residents and city councillors in Surrey are reacting to a weekend announcement by the municipality that most could face a large double-digit property tax hike this year.
The city says a large part of that is to help cover the cost of the transition of its police force, but councillors are asking for the budget to be deferred until the total cost becomes clearer.
“It is because of all those issues that have been happening over the last four years,” said Mayor Brenda Locke. “The cost overruns and the staling of getting here.”
The city is maintaining that even though keeping the RCMP in Surrey is cheaper than going ahead with the Surrey Police Service, the transition has created a shortfall of $116 million so far.
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To make up for it, the budget proposes a 9.5 per cent general property tax increase for the next three years. That means the average single-family household can expect to pay $219 more next year.
Combined with the seven per cent property tax increase already proposed for inflation, city operations and hiring extra police officers, plus an extra one per cent roads and traffic levy — the average Surrey home could see a 17.5 per cent surge in property tax.
“This budget is based on what the council voted, which is to keep the RCMP as the police of jurisdiction. If we go with the Surrey Police Service, that number would be significantly more,” said Locke.
However, that is something both the SPS and other councillors have refuted.
“I have been calling for somebody independent of any of the organizations to do an audit and give us the real numbers,” said Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis.
“Work with everybody. Let’s all agree with the numbers before we proceed,” she added.
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Meantime, the province has asked for more time to make a final decision on whether the city goes ahead with the municipal police force or keeps the mounties.
Without a final number on the transition price tag, some are asking for the budget to be released later.
“To proceed in this direction is irresponsible,” said Safe Surrey Coalition Councillor Doug Elford.
“We have until May 15 to make a decision. So there is still time.”
Instead, a public meeting will be held on March 6 to go over the budget.
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