Surrey’s taxes are going up by almost $90, as the city has given early endorsement to its five-year financial plan.
City councillors met as the finance committee last Wednesday (Feb. 10) to discuss a budget for this year that calls for $88.30 in new taxes and levies.
As The Leader reported late last month, the city is planning a 3.9 per cent tax hike, which will be $70.28 for the average home worth $671,000.
In addition, Surrey is increasing a road levy by one per cent – an added $18.02 per average household – bringing the levy to $128 for next year.
The levy was introduced in 2007 as a temporary five-year measure. It has not only remained, but increased by one per cent annually since then.
The city has also endorsed a 3.9-per-cent increase in fees and charges, such as business licences, dog licences and recreation centre fees.
In Surrey’s last five-year financial plan, council aimed to hike property taxes by 2.9 per cent this year. The current plan bumps that up by one per cent.
Utilities, including garbage, sewer and water, will increase by $27.50 per home – half of which is a result of Metro Vancouver increases.
A $100 recreation and culture levy announced weeks after the election in 2014 will also remain in place this year.
However, council has chosen to rename it a capital levy, which will allow it to be used on any capital project.
Finance committee chair Tom Gill has consistently said he’s extremely reluctant to cut back on the city’s ambitious capital program.
Some of the projects in the works are a new North Surrey arena ($45 million), ice rinks in Cloverdale ($30 million), recreation and library facilities in Clayton ($40 million) and about $10 million for the next phase of the museum in Cloverdale.
Cost pressures on the city this year were significant.
It’s the first year Surrey will pay for a full year of newly hired RCMP officers. The cost for that alone will be $15 million.
On Feb. 10, Surrey council committed to hiring 16 more police officers this year, which will arrive in October.
In addition, Surrey is hiring four more bylaw officers and another senior position at the Surrey Fire Department.
The Surrey Board of Trade said it’s cautiously optimistic about the budget endorsed last week.
“As the independent voice of business we do request that the city reduce the new higher, property tax rate at the earliest possible opportunity to maintain Surrey’s competitive status for business attraction in the region,” the SBOT wrote in a letter to council.
Surrey council is expected to endorse the budget in full at its regular meeting on Feb. 22.