Surrey council has given final approval to taking out $150.6 million in loans over 25 years to pay for three major recreation projects in the city centre, Cloverdale and Newton.
This includes $40 million to build a sports complex in the city centre, $20.6 million to build a sports and ice complex in Cloverdale and $90 million to build a community centre in Newton, to be borrowed through the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia.
Councillor Brenda Locke said she would support the projects despite being concerned about the level of borrowing, which she said would not have been necessary if the city wasn’t setting up its own police force to replace the Surrey RCMP.
The allocated capital cost of the policing transition, under Surrey’s 2021 budget council endorsed last December, is $63 million.
Locke suspects that won’t be nearly enough money to cover the transition to the Surrey Police Service and will be significantly more.
“We’re at a place where we’re going to have to do an awful lot of borrowing and it concerns me a great deal. On the other hand I absolutely understand the need for infrastructure, I just think that we could be spending more money better right now on infrastructure as opposed to the police transition,” she said.
Councillor Linda Annis said she reluctantly supports the borrowing. “We don’t really have a firm grasp of what the police transition is going to cost us because there is a lot of variables and I fear we’re on a little bit of a slippery slope in terms of residential taxes going up significantly over the next number of years because we don’t have a good, solid tax base for our office and commercial areas.”
“I just fear we’re going to be going into more debt and more debt, and at some point interest rates will go up, and we can’t keep taxing and taxing our residents,” Annis said. In response, Councillor Allison Patton said Surrey residents’ tax burden is in the lower one-third of all the Metro-area cities while Surrey is “the fastest growing city around.”
Councillor Stephen Pettigrew said that while Surrey needs these recreation projects he would have liked to have seen them paid for in a “different way.”
“I really hope moving forward that we do not borrow any more money, we just kind-of cap it here.”