The Surrey Board of Trade is crying foul as Surrey’s Class 4 major industrial businesses are taking it on the chin with withering property tax increases under the city’s 2020 budget.
One of those businesses impacted is the Teal-Jones Group, headquartered in Port Kells. A family-run business with roughly 500 employees in Surrey alone, it’s been operating since the 1960s and is one of the biggest private sector employers in this city.
Gerrie Kotze, the lumber company’s vice-president and chief financial officer, said its property tax increase is “astronomical.”
With an increase at 190 per cent, he said, it “close to tripled.”
“Just on the City of Surrey property tax increase,” he said. “There are other things on that notice from other jurisdictions. But just on the Surrey tax increase, triple of what it was.
“Initially we just thought it was a mistake because, with that type of increase,” he said.
Kotze said his company “would have expected some kind of notice, or discussion or consultation” from the city.
But it didn’t.
He maintains this tax hike is “quite unfair,” particularly during a pandemic.
Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman has called for a “City of Surrey Class 4 Tax Review.”
“Surrey has the greatest number of manufacturers in BC,” she noted, “but these insurmountable tax increases on top of pre-COVID-19 and during COVID-19 induced economic slowdown has the potential to push these businesses out of Surrey, compromising Surrey’s growth and economic prosperity. The City of Surrey has a leadership opportunity for their fiscal 2021 budget to enhance our assets and assist in job creation, not tax increases.”
Huberman noted that Surrey’s 2020 financial plan, revealed last December, set the annual residential property tax at 2.9 per cent for an average single-family dwelling.
She said there was “no consultation on proposed tax rates with the business community” leading up to the 2020 financial plan and that the 2020 tax increase is “unfairly weighted” against Surrey’s manufacturing sector.
“On June 30, we sent a letter to mayor and council requesting our elected officials sit with affected parties and discuss a mutually beneficial path forward. We received a response from one City of Surrey councillor and a City of Surrey staff person.
“We urge the City to reconsider the Class 4 tax increase on major industry,” Huberman said, calling it “unfairly punitive during the best of times.”
Considering the impact COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses this year, she said, the tax hike creates an especially “heavy burden” for local businesses to bear.
“We therefore ask the city to reduce the Class 4 tax increase,” Huberman said.
Meantime, Councillor Brenda Locke noted the 2.9 per cent increase for residential taxes “is not what it ended up to be, it’s significantly more and it’s different for different households for sure.
“There isn’t anybody that only got a 2.9 per cent increase. That’s only the city taxes, that doesn’t include all the additional increased fees like the add-on for Metro Vancouver and so on.”
“I think this is a time when we should be reviewing all of our taxes right now,” Locke said. “Certainly everybody needs to be looking closely at their money. The provincial government has recommended to cities to do that, because COVID has impacted us so tremendously that we need to be more sensitive to not only households but to businesses too, there’s no doubt about it.”