Linda Hepner

Linda Hepner

Hepner says new $100 levy was necessary

New Surrey mayor acknowledges there was no mention of the tax during the election campaign.

Mayor Linda Hepner acknowledges a $100 levy was never raised by her party during the fall election, but the tax became necessary to maintain the city’s capital program.

During the last civic election, Surrey First vowed to hire 100 police officers for $15 million annually.  The party stated those officers could be paid for with revenue from growth, a hike in secondary suite fees and dividends from the city’s development corporation.

However, the chair of the city’s finance committee, Coun. Tom Gill, said this month cost pressures – primarily from the hiring of the RCMP – put the city’s aggressive capital program at risk.

Gill said there were other cost pressures that came as a surprise, including a benefits increase for the RCMP and a pay increase for Surrey firefighters.

Staff say those costs total $6.5 million, some of which the city was anticipating.

Hepner said Tuesday (Dec. 22) there were more unexpected costs as well.

They include operating costs of new pools, she said.

“My fundamental piece was are we going to remain competitive in the region with the lowest taxes?” Hepner said.

She has been assured by city staff the city will be competitive in the taxes charged.

“Frankly that’s the best we can do.”

She acknowledged that the $100 levy was a new concept.

“That was never raised during the election,” Hepner said. “Nor was I aware it was going to cost $2 million to operate a pool.”

She also heard on the hustings that people wanted to keep the capital program, which is extremely expensive.

The budget was endorsed by the finance committee (all of council) on Dec. 8. It will be given final approval by council after the holidays.