A third-quarter financial report that came before Surrey council Monday indicates that what was expected to be a $40 million deficit at the end of this pandemic year, forecast in the first quarter of 2020, is now expected to be a “modest budget surplus” of $461,000 by year’s end.
The report, by the city’s general manager of finance Kam Grewal, also states that the city’s policing transition from the Surrey RCMP to a city police force “currently has a favourable variance” of $1,220,000 and that’s expected to be $1,249,000 by year’s end because of a “higher than budgeted” traffic fine revenue sharing grant from the provincial government.
The report was approved on a five-to-four vote, with Safe Surrey Coalition council members in support and councillors Linda Annis, Jack Hundial, Brenda Locke and Steven Pettigrew voting against it.
Annis thanked the finance department’s staff for doing “such a great report” but said she wouldn’t support it because “I feel some of the items, in particular around the police transition, are not open and transparent.”
Councillor Laurie Guerra sang its praises.
“It’s quite incredible that we can fare so well, in terms of projecting a $40 million shortfall due to COVID and actually ending up with an almost $500,000 surplus,” she said. “Now that is contingent, the report says, as long as we can continue to stay the course for the remainder of the year with our fiscally responsible operations and I know that our city is an amazingly well-run city and I know that we can continue to stay that course.”
So did Councillor Allison Patton.
“I noticed that every department found ways to try to make some changes so that it was easier on all of us and so I just really, really appreciate that because I know we already run a lean organization and we’re extremely efficient and innovative and we’re always teamwork oriented,” Patton said.
Councillor Locke did not.
“One of the reasons we’ve come out so well on the COVID side of it, and reducing the budget shortfall, was due to layoffs of our staff and so some of that is on the backs of people that have worked here and that causes me some concern, but I guess I also understand why those layoffs happened,” she said.
Councillor Mandeep Nagra got behind the report.
“I think this money is enough for the police transition over the next five years so they have pretty much funded our transition here,” he said.
Mayor Doug McCallum scolded councillors outside his circle, claiming they weren’t supportive of city staff.
“It’s unbelievable that we have a couple or some councillors here that don’t think our staff have done a super job,” he said.
“I think it’s about time council starts to support our staff.”
Councillor Steven Pettigrew challenged him on that.
“I haven’t heard anybody speak down about staff,” Pettigrew said. “Hopefully staff has picked it up as well, we are all very supportive of you.
“If someone has an issue with a corporate report or an application it’s an item and we’re not talking about staff,” he said. “So the mayor seemed to indicate that some of us are anti-staff, that’s farthest from the truth. We have the greatest admiration for you, especially thriving under this environment that you’re in, having your numbers reduced. So, yeah, that’s just falsehood so don’t buy into that please.”