Safe Surrey Coalition shot down a motion that would have given Surrey residents 10 business days to review the city’s Five-Year (2022-2026) Financial Plan before its expected approval.
The budget was released late Friday (Dec. 17), and council will be holding a finance committee meeting on Wednesday (Dec. 22) at 11 a.m. to discuss it.
Coun. Brenda Locke, who brought forward the motion to extend the consultation period to 10 business days, told council the quick turnaround is unfair to businesses and residents that are impacted by the budget.
“I think that it is highly disrespectful that we only gave two working days for the public to take a look at the budget this year,” Locke said to council. “I think that the public would like more time to consider the budget, especially this year… It’s a big election budget and it matters to people. I think we need to, and we should be, holding steadfast with what we’ve done in the past years.”
Couns. Jack Hundial, Linda Annis and Steven Pettigrew echoed Locke in that they wanted to give residents more time to digest the budget.
Speaking to Locke’s motion, SSC Coun. Allison Patton said she was “offended.”
“I find it highly offensive that two of the councillors complaining about this issue were, in my opinion, the cause of us not necessarily as cohesively arranging our time-frame as we like to have our standard for our A+ rating,” Patton said to council. “And personally, I find it offensive that they called into question the process that we have been running the last three years in order to be ready strategically for our budget. And I still am offended at that. So they have to live with that.”
Locke addressed Patton’s comment.
“In terms of offending anybody, you know that this is not the place for talking about who’s offended and who is not. I can tell you that’s not what this chamber is for,” Locke said.
Coun. Laurie Guerra, of SSC, said she won’t be supporting Locke’s motion.
“I find it very disingenuous that members of this council are critical when the budget wasn’t coming out on time, and now that it is coming out and we’re ready to deal with it, I’m very supportive that we are bringing it forward,” Guerra said, adding there wasn’t a huge change in terms of a tax increase.
Hundial noted that 2021 has been a difficult year for business owners and they are directly impacted by taxes.
“We have not given enough time, what people would normally expect in a budget cycle. Certainly there was no warning for this,” Hundial said.
Coun. Annis said challenges are amplified by the busy holiday season.
“People were caught off guard by it and haven’t had time or the opportunity to be able to review it,” Annis said to council.
McCallum, who referred to the budget as “one of the best, if not the best budgets of any big city in Canada,” said there was “huge public consultation” throughout the year.
The mayor took issue with “a number” of councillors that didn’t attend two finance committee meetings.
“I’m not going to name them. They know who they are,” McCallum said. “But when we have a finance committee meeting to do with the budget, I expect all councillors to be at those meetings.”
In a news release last week, the city touted that “for the fourth consecutive year, the proposed average property tax rate has been set at 2.9%”
But earlier this year, many residents and businesses were shocked to find out their property tax hike was far greater than the promise 2.9 per cent.
Amber Stowe, the city’s communications and media relations lead, couldn’t confirm if there would be a council meeting on Dec. 24. She said council will set the next meeting date on during Wednesday’s finance committee meeting.
However, on the city’s website, it lists a meeting on Dec. 24 at 10 a.m.