While taxes are going up in Surrey this year, it’s not yet known by how much.
The City of Surrey’s Finance Committee considered utility increases Monday, which are expected to rise by approximately $22 for the average single-family residence ($13 for water, $5 for drainage and $4 for solid waste).
The solid waste increase is to support new initiatives in 2017, according to a city report, including service to high-rise customers, expanding existing services to curbside customers, increasing waste collection education programs and enhancing illegal dumping enforcement through surveillance technologies. The report notes that in 2016 the city brought down costs associated with illegal dumping by 40 per cent (by more than $400,000).
But operating and capital budgets have yet to be explored. Councillor Tom Gill said that work will begin once the utility rates are finalized.
As it stands in the budget right now, a 3.9 per cent property tax hike is planned plus another one per cent increase for the Road and Traffic Levy, which was introduced as a temporary measure in 2007.
And it’s expected the controversial $100 “capital” tax will continue, established in 2014 weeks after Surrey First swept all council seats. It was a move the city made as it grappled with paying for public safety increases while maintaining the capital projects it had on the books.
This year’s big question, said Gill, is “how aggressive” city council will decide it wants to be on its capital program as it relates to civic amenities.
“To be frank a lot of the time the capital budget does impact the contribution that would come in from the operating side,” he explained.
Gill expects the capital budget to be considered by city council next month.
Last year, the city originally planned a 2.9 per cent property tax increase but the finance committee approved an increase of 3.9 per cent to pay for public safety increases while keeping up with planned capital projects. The bill for the average single-family home – valued at $671,000 in 2015 – jumped $88 for 2016, from $1,771 to $1,859.
New this year, Gill is pushing to provide “additional transparency” on tax invoices, showing residents what portion of the city budget is spent on public safety.
“The intent is to show residents what our costs are associated to…. RCMP and the public safety office, fire services and bylaw enforcement,” said Gill. “The other thing I’m working on is to be able to articulate what we spend on parks, recreation and culture given that’s the single largest category outside of public safety in terms of a department.”