Surrey First city Councillor Linda Annis says it’s time Surrey joins other major Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton and soon Vancouver in having an independent auditor general make sure this city’s taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck.
Surrey has nearly 600,000 residents, its 2021 budget is more than $1.2 billion and it’s financially bigger than most companies in this province, she notes.
“Surrey taxpayers deserve the best possible oversight of the tax dollars they send to city hall. The transparency and independence that comes with an auditor general is important to the future of our growing city,” she said.
Annis said she intends to introduce a notice of motion at council’s next meeting, on Monday April 26, toward this end.
“I’m hoping my motion will get unanimous support at council because our city isn’t getting any smaller, and when you’re looking at annual budgets in excess of $1 billion and growing, we need the clarity and transparency that comes from an independent eye on how we operate as a city,” Annis stated in a press release. “I believe that our taxpayers deserve nothing less, and I’m hoping my council colleagues will agree.”
Meantime, Annis charges that Surrey could be building the most expensive city police department in the province as it transitions to the Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP.
“I’ve always warned that when it comes to the mayor’s police department, we should all get ready for sticker shock,” she said, noting that while a second-year RCMP constable’s salary is $80,786, their Vancouver Police Department counterparts are paid $82,181 and the SPS salary at that same level will be $86,272.
“When you compare what we will be paying for the SPS, the RCMP are an incredible bargain for our taxpayers,” Annis said. “Even if you take away the federal subsidy, the cost of the RCMP is still well below what we’re about to pay for SPS officers.”
During Tuesday’s Surrey Police Board meeting, finance committee chairwoman Elizabeth Model noted that of $25.2 million budgeted for one-time expenditures in 2020, $20.6 million of that was carried forward into the 2021 fiscal year.
Seeing as one-time expenditures for 2021 was budgeted at $23.1 million, that makes for a total of $43.7 million available for the current year. Model reported to the board that projected spending for the 2021 fiscal year is about $29.5 million.