It was billed as Surrey Property Taxes – Challenges and Opportunities.
What was expressed was shock and awe.
Surrey residents and businesses have seen a steep rise in their property taxes this year, despite Mayor Doug McCallum insisting they have been held at 2.9 per cent.
“There’s is going to be a lot of noise about this,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, during a Zoom meeting held by the board on Monday.
“In Surrey we’re facing some significant increases and it really relates to the mounting cost of doing business.”
“Property tax increases not only in Surrey but in all of British Columbia are simply unacceptable and unsustainable for businesses,” Huberman said.
“Write letters, send feedback to your local, provincial and regional governments and senior officials. They’re the ones making the decisions and you need to be engaged at all three levels, in an ongoing way throughout the year. A comprehensive tax review is needed at all levels of government.
“Every person that is impacted needs to do this or we are going to lose businesses out of Surrey.”
The meeting featured guest speakers Vance Leschuk, director Property Tax Complex, Ryan ULC as well as Malcolm Earle, executive vice president of Colliers, George (Bud) Ivey, president and senior remediation specialist with Ivey International Inc. and Jeremy Pollon, director of corporate service, S&R Sawmills Ltd.
Ivey said it’s important for people to share what they’re thinking and feeling about these tax increases.
He runs a company in Surrey that develops technology to clean up contamination of the environment.
“When I got my tax bill I had to sit down and say, ‘Is this a joke? Is there something I’m missing here?’ We had a 74.5 per cent increase, unprecedented for me. Never seen this, in all of over 25 years in business, happen to me,” Ivey said.
“The rate of property tax increases have to be fair and reasonable to establish and maintain trust between businesses, our local city councils and the province,” Ivey added. “This unprecedented tax increase damages that trust for me towards thinking about what city hall is doing.”
Earle said the “trifecta” of reasons property taxes have increased, exacerbated by the pandemic, is the combination of the return of the school tax – which the provincial government subsidized in 2020 because of COVID-19 – as well as land value assessments increasing significantly and that “supply continued to be strained in an already under-served market.”
The school tax, he said, is the biggest single contributor to most commercial property taxes this year.
As far as industrial businesses go, Earle compared a business in Surrey with one in the Township of Langley, with the Surrey one being 115,000 square feet, on 6.98 acres, and built in 2019 and the one in Langley being 100,000 square feet, on 6.33 acres and built in 2018.
The assessed value of the Surrey property in 2021 was $26.3 million and $21.3 million in 2020 while the property in Langley had an assessed value of $21.3 million in 2021 and $20.1 million in 2020. The annual property taxes for the Surrey property are $262,000 in 2021 compared to $156,000 in 2020 while the annual property tax for the Langley property came in at $255,000 this year compared to $186,000 in 2020.
“Last year the assessed values of land skyrocketed,” Earle noted, “not just across Surrey but across the Lower Mainland and across the province.”