File photo: Black Press Media

File photo: Black Press Media

Lost gambling revenue, facilities not at capacity having ‘significant’ impact on Surrey finances

Kam Grewal, Surrey’s finance manager, says loss to be offset by ‘cost avoidance in relation to salaries and operating costs’

Surrey city council has received a third-quarter financial report indicating the “most significant impacts expected” on the city’s financial health this year are lost revenue from city facilities not re-opening to 100 per cent capacity because of the pandemic, and loss of provincial gaming revenue that resulted from Elements Casino’s closure and reopening at less than 100 per cent capacity.

“Loss of city revenues due to closure of city facilities is expected to be offset by cost avoidance in relation to salaries and operating costs,” reads the report by Kam Grewal, Surrey’s general manager of finance. “Other losses to city revenues or increases in city costs due to COVID-19 will continue to be managed by staff by closely administrating their respective budgets.”

Council voted to receive the report Monday, with Coun. Steven Pettigrew voting against it.

“I do not agree with the direction and the focus that this council has taken our finances, I’m in direct opposition to it and I do not agree with what they’re doing to our finances so I will not be supporting this,” Pettigrew told council.

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Mayor Doug McCallum disagreed.

“I think it’s an excellent report, it’s a strong, firm report,” McCallum said. “Budgets are always hard.”

“In my discussions in the big city mayors’ caucus across Canada, every city is in major trouble financially,” he said, and yet Surrey is “in pretty good shape, as far as our finances are concerned.”

The report notes that the city saw a 34 per cent increase in the overall value of construction, both residential and not, in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the same period last year. The total number of building permits issued so far this year is five per cent higher than in the same period in 2020 and the number of new residential dwelling units that were granted permits in 2021 so far is 51 per cent higher than the same period in 2020.

It also states that while the Surrey Police Service has a “favourable variance” of $9 million forecast to be $30 million by year’s end, the RCMP contract has an “unfavourable variance” of $5.1 million with a forecast of $32 million.

“The unfavourable variance is currently forecasted at $32.0M. This unfavourable variance will be directly offset by the favourable forecasted variance for SPS,” Grewal’s report to council states.

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