If you’re staring in disbelief at the mayor’s decision to impose a 12.5% residential tax increase, you’re not alone. And don’t feel relieved because it wasn’t 17.5%. For many in our community it’s still a big hit. But it’s not just an attack on your wallet, it also speaks about how not to treat taxpayers.
By way of background, our city’s current financial problems started with Doug McCallum and his mythical 2.9% annual tax increase. The fact is, his tax increases were always double digit. At the same time, he never properly invested in city infrastructure, new police or firefighters, or important maintenance and upkeep.
During this time, our city was growing by at least 1,000 new residents every month. In fact, in Doug McCallum’s term we never hired a single new police officer.
This style and approach left a lot of financial problems for the incoming city council elected last October. We faced a set of very tough financial decisions that have been made even worse by the continuing police transition fiasco. Unfortunately, Mayor Brenda Locke hasn’t helped things.
Instead of giving the people of Surrey a say in who polices our city, the mayor simply pulled a Doug McCallum-style flip of the political switch and shut down the transition to the SPS. This political flip-flop comes with a huge price tag, one our city will be paying for in the years to come.
Instead of getting the RCMP, SPS and city finance department into the same room to agree on the numbers around policing and transition, Surrey sent a variety of different numbers from the different organizations to Victoria. Is it any wonder the province had to take time to sift through the facts and fiction? The result is, to this day, no one can tell you with a straight face just how much the police transition will cost to complete, or to reverse. It’s a financial mess, and it’s not getting any better as time drags on.
For instance, the city has made 40-plus assumptions about the transition, including severance costs for the SPS. The $85 million severance estimate is based on the ridiculous notion that half of the current SPS officers will move to the RCMP. Does anyone really believe that SPS officers will head to the RCMP in those staggering numbers? Not in your life.
That means the $85 million budgeted for severance will, most likely, be much higher and one more rising cost for taxpayers. It’s just one of many examples where assumptions mean more bad financial news for taxpayers in our city.
Quite simply, the whole policing issue has been mismanaged and mishandled by city council and two mayors who never took the time to talk to or listen to Surrey citizens.
When politicians don’t listen to taxpayers their political mistakes always end up costing taxpayers. It’s as though taxpayers don’t matter. That’s what the 12.5% tax hike comes down to. Costly political mistakes, and their underlying lack of public consultation, cost money. The proof is in the property tax bill that’s on its way to your mailbox.
Councillor Linda Annis