Some years ago British Columbia witnessed a fall and ultimate disaster to newly re-elect Premier Gordon Campbell and his finance minister Colin Hansen as a result of unfortunate introduction of HST just weeks after they defeat NDP for the third time since 2001. Surrey residents witnessed these days excellent use of Campbell-Hansen playbook by newly elected Mayor Linda Hepner and her council.
Surrey First during last election campaign told to residents that if they win they will keep taxes, especially residential taxes low and will be able to fulfill all promises. Of course biggest and the most important promise of all was and it is to increase public safety in City which witnessed 16th murder of this year, which is according to all statistics third highest number ever. But as history teach us, never believe what politician promises during campaign, Surrey residents will be ultimate victims in effort to increase their security. To collect funds required to hire additional 100 police officers Mayor Hepner and Surrey First will not touch property taxes but it will increase several levies.
According to the Surrey Leader reporter Kevin Diakiw who extensively wrote over the last few days on this issue property tax increase will remain at 2.9 per cent but levies will push total amount to 10 per cent.
Surrey residents on average will pay approximately $1570 in taxes next year. Culture and recreation fee which is proposed by staff will take $100.00 from your pocket, while road levy will remain in place for another decade will take $16.00 from you pockets.
Surprising element in this story is what chair of finance committee Councillor Tom Gill said to Surrey Leader. According to Cllr. Gill who chairs one of the most important committees in the City is that extra costs for benefits of RCMP members and pay increase for Surrey Firefighters came suddenly.
Cllr. Gill sits at the finance committee for the last nine years, he is not a newbie in city politics, and knows very well what are details of contracts signed with agencies which are providing services to residents of Surrey. If benefits increase for RCMP members came as surprise then Surrey residents should know if previous administration signed blindly two decade long agreement? If that was a case then Surrey residents could expect many more sudden costs and levies to pay for services if they were not properly preplanned and included in budgetary frame as result of signed agreement.
While Surrey remains on its transformational road from suburban to metropolitan area of Lower Mainland both sides will need to brace themselves for challenges. Residents who want to live in better and more suitable city are more than ready to pitch in and contribute, but it would be respectful and more productive for both sides if political side plays clean game without surprises. Hundreds of dollars less in pockets of residents who are already burdened by other costs of life are probably the greatest challenge to them and there is not space for “sudden costs” as they were described by Cllr. Gill.
Surrey First and newly enthroned Mayor Linda Hepner can expect very heated and quite long first finance committee meeting as several community groups are getting ready to speak the the meeting. This is not only heated issued which will be brought in on Monday when Council will held its first full length meeting at the new City Hall. It seems that first winter of this now four year term will be very hot and interesting in Surrey political arena.