Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke says Surrey’s share of a $1 billion community infrastructure grant announced by Premier David Eby on Feb. 10 could “absolutely” be used to offset a portion of a potential 17.5 per cent property tax that’s bearing down on Surrey taxpayers this year.
“But, you know, we can only budget a bird in the hand – we can only budget on what we know and we have nothing in writing confirmed, nothing established,” Locke told the Now-Leader on Friday. “Hopefully, and I did reach out to the premier to ask him if he could give us an indication because certainly if we did have that information we could make changes now, but I haven’t heard back from him.”
Locke revealed the proposed 17.5 per cent tax increase, which doesn’t include utility rate hikes, at a presser on Feb. 18 with the biggest portion of that, 9.5 per cent, levied “entirely due” to cover costs associated with the policing transition.
Locke said this proposed budget is based on the premise the Surrey RCMP will continue as the city’s police force.
“If we were to go with the Surrey Police Service, that number would be significantly more,” she said.
Locke said the proposed budget is “certainly not a budget that I am happy to deliver but it is a budget that we have to deliver.”
Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has yet to render his decision whether Surrey should maintain the RCMP as its police department of jurisdiction or continue with the transition to the Surrey Police Service.
“We haven’t had a call, we’re waiting on it,” Locke said Friday.
On Feb. 10, Eby was in Surrey, with Locke at his side, to announce a $1 billion pool pools of funds from which all 188 of B.C.’s municipalities and regional districts can draw for local government infrastructure.
Locke at the time told the Now-Leader it was her understanding Surrey would receive somewhere in the neighbourhood of $60 million to $80 million from that grant.
“That’s what they said to me – I certainly hope it’s significantly more than that, it should be, if it’s properly apportioned if we get our fair share, I will certainly be asking for that,” Locke reaffirmed Friday. “But we have had anything confirmed.”
Part of Surrey’s slice of the pie would go toward developing the third rink at the Cloverdale arena, for example. “It’s supposed to be designated to capital projects so yes absolutely we could make that move that number significantly and that’s why I reached out to the premier but I didn’t hear back from him yet.”
Otherwise, part of that 17.5 tax hike, some $34 million, would be used to fund the Cloverdale project.
“It would make a significant dent because the 9.5 per cent is only for three years and we don’t anticipate it’s going to go for even three years so it would be a very effective way of reducing that number.”