The City of Surrey has passed its five-year budget in a Christmas Eve meeting, approving an average property tax increase of 2.9 per cent and a new police training facility.
Mayor Doug McCallum and the four councillors from the Safe Surrey Coalition voted through all the bylaws required to pass the budget without discussion, with all of them passing in 5-4 votes.
Councillors Brenda Locke, Linda Annis, Steven Pettigrew, and Jack Hundial tried to vote down all of the budget-related motions.
The four councillors have criticized McCallum and the city for bringing the budget proposal forward with what they say is little time for review. The budget was proposed on Dec. 16, eight days before it went to vote.
McCallum thanked city staff for the budget proposal, which projected more than $600 million in general revenue for 2022, during the Friday meeting.
"It was a difficult year with COVID-19 putting all sorts of problems into our city," he said. "Our staff have really responded creatively, positively, and dealt with the problems."
The average property tax rate has been increased by 2.9 per cent, with the city saying the average single-family house can expect to pay $63 more in property taxes next year.
One of the projects funded in the budget include a new $4M police training academy, meant for Surrey's new municipal policing force.
The budget says the cost of the transition to the Surrey Police Service, from the currently-operating Surrey RCMP, will be $15.4 million over the next three years. The total cost of the transition is set to be over $63 million.
The Surrey RCMP is set to get nearly $100 million in funding next year as part of the city's contract with the force.
"It is important to note that the one-time policing transition budget is fully allocated currently," the budget reads.
"Any further charges due to security clearance or demobilization delays will necessitate an increase in the project budget in future years."
Other projects to be funded include pickleball courts at the city's Crescent Park, disc golf facilities at Port Mann Park, upgrades to various recreation centres, and a bus layover facility near Surrey City Centre.
Councillor criticizes budget proposal
Coun. Linda Annis, who voted against the budget on Friday, criticized the entire lead-up to the vote on Friday, saying a normally months-long process had been condensed into little over a week.
"We shouldn't be cramming something like this over four days. That's just ridiculous," she told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On The Coast, on Monday.
Annis said a proposed community amenity charge, set to be charged to developers, would squeeze affordable housing providers out of the city.
She also criticized the proposed funding for the police training facility, which is set to be budgeted through the city's capital programs and not included in the $63 million transition budget.
"The budget has gone from roughly 18 million to over 60 million," she said. "There's now further delays that are going to mean that the transition isn't going to happen as quickly as possible."
"We have no idea what it's going to cost, but my guess is it could be upwards [of] $200 million."
Annis said Surrey taxpayers would be paying a "big bill" as part of the transition in 2023 and 2024, saying that McCallum backloaded expenditures into the budget knowing there is a local election on the horizon in 2022.
"We shouldn't be spending money we don't have," she said. "And that's what [is] being spent on the Surrey Police transition."