Surrey city hall. (File photo)

Surrey council to vote on draft budget Monday

Finance committee public hearing will be followed by regular meeting

Surrey city council will be considering the draft budget Monday (Dec. 2), first at the finance committee meeting and at the regular council meeting.

At the finance committee, which starts at 1 p.m., there will be a public hearing for people to comment on the budget.

Then at 7 p.m., council will be voting on first, second and third reading for the budget.

The draft financial capital plan budgets $45.2 million for Surrey’s new police department transition. The plan allocates $84.4 million in “additional” operating costs on top of the expected one-time transition costs. With contingencies added, that equates to $129.6 million over the five-year period.

For the second year in a row, there are no new police officers on the city’s books for 2020.

And no new firefighters are to be hired next year, if the budget is approved, “due to the priority in establishing” of a new police department and to keep “tax increases to a minimum.”

Further, the plan calls for a hiring freeze at city hall outside of staff required for new facilities to open, such as the Clayton Heights Community Centre.

Staff note in budget documents that “this is not a long term sustainable strategy” and state that “further staffing adjustments may be made during the course of 2020 if service delivery demands increase beyond what has been anticipated.”

The draft budget has come under fire from several councillors since it was released on Nov. 18.

READ ALSO: New Surrey police for ‘swallowing up’ city funds, Annis says, Nov. 18, 2019

READ ALSO: Higher development fees in budget would ‘make Surrey less affordable’: Annis, Nov. 26, 2019

Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis says the city’s plan to switch from the RCMP to its own police force is “swallowing up every available dollar” at city hall while Councillor Steven Pettigrew says its draft budget, if approved, “will continue to destroy the fabric of our city.”

The new police force will come at the expense of road repairs, rinks, recreation centres, and more police officers and firefighters for Surrey, Annis said

Pettigrew echoed her.

“It will take years if not decades to recover from this type of fiscal ideology,” he said. “I hope that the people of Surrey will speak up and voice their concerns.”

Last year’s approved five-year budget postponed $136 million in capital projects, in an effort to reduce required debt, Mayor Doug McCallum said at the time.

Now, Pettigrew says, “this budget focuses all of its attention on one thing – creating a new Surrey Police Force.”

“This will be done at the expense of any new capital projects – example, arenas, improving our road network, adding new resources to match our city’s growth. The people of Surrey are very frustrated with the lack of improvements to their community and the hamstringing of our first responders.”

READ ALSO: McCallum floats canal idea again but Surrey staff ‘have no work plan before them’, Nov. 26, 2019

Meantime, McCallum has made comments about his Bridgeview canal idea and how it’s proceeding at city hall, but councillors Annis and Jack Hundial said they feel it’s meant to be a distraction from the budget.

“Quite frankly, I’m not sure why the mayor is talking about it,” Annis said. “I think we’ve got a lot more important issues to be concerned with.”

While Hundial said he thinks it’s a “ruse”

to get people’s attention off the shortfall in the budget and the policing transition.

Asked if he thinks that’s working, Hundial said he knows “people are smarter than that.”

“When you look at this police plan and how it’s going to cannibalize the entire budget, that’s going to come at the sake of youth facilities such as rec centres, services,” he said. “We need to look at all of those things going into the budget.”

– files from Amy Reid and Tom Zytaruk

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