Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says the city is “holding the line” on property taxes with a proposed increase of 2.9 per cent, but one city councillor says it’s just the “tip of the iceberg,” warning some taxpayers might be hit with a 15-per-cent tax hike.
Hot on the heels of a City of Surrey press release issued Monday heralding a general property tax of 2.9 per cent in the city’s proposed budget for 2021, Linda Annis says some Surrey homeowners could be looking at having to pay between 12-to-15 per cent more in 2021.
“It has been Council’s approach to manage our public dollars prudently and it is a testament to the economic strength of Surrey that we have been able to bring in a fully balanced budget that holds the line on property taxes,” McCallum stated in the press release. “The rate set in the 2019 and 2020 budgets was 2.9 per cent and is, once again, the rate proposed for the 2021 budget.”
During a mayoral candidates’ meeting at Whalley’s Civic Hotel on Sept. 26, 2018, McCallum said “we would hold any increases, if we need them, that we would hold any increases to the Consumer Price Index. That will be the maximum that we would go to, if we have to go to.”
The CPI for October is expected to be released on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Annis is less cheerful about it.
“There’s also a line item many of us don’t pay attention to, and it’s called the parcel tax. Everybody is assessed at the same amount – for the previous two years we’ve all paid $100 and it doesn’t matter if you’re living in a $4-million house or a $400,000 condo,” the councillor told the Now-Leader on Monday.
“What the new budget is proposing is that we will have an increase from $100 to $300. If you look at an average house price in Surrey – I think it’s roughly $1.1 million – that would mean at the end of the day you’re really getting a 12 per cent tax increase this year, and that’s from the taxes that the city is collecting for use in the city.”
Annis said the “unfortunate part” is that it will disproportionately hit people who are entering the housing market.
“For example, if you own a $700,000 place it’s going to be more like a 15 per cent tax increase,” Annis said. “I’m very concerned about it. I mean, I’m concerned to see those kinds of tax increases at any point in time but when we’re all struggling financially and concerned about keeping our jobs and how long is this pandemic going to go on for, it just doesn’t seem like a good use of taxpayers’ money.”
The City of Surrey’s press release indicates the Capital Parcel Tax increase proposed in the budget will be $200 and the levy will held fund 16 projects that include the Newton community centre and land acquisition, Sunnyside Reservoir Pickleball and Bike Park, phase one of a city centre sports complex, new park washrooms, Bear Creek Park Athletics Centre, Biodiversity Preserve Park improvements, South Surrey Athletic Park Track Replacement and new artificial turf field, trail and path development, Crescent Park Studio/building renovation, Newton turf and washroom/changeroom, outdoor volleyball courts, artificial turf field replacements at five locations, new park shelters, Indigenous carving centres, a Newton Athletic Park walking track, and Cloverdale Sport & Ice Complex with two sheets of ice budgeted for 2022/23.
“All of the following projects are budgeted to ensure work can get underway next year,” the city’s press release states.
It also notes that the operating budget for police related services – including the Surrey Police Service – was forecast at $189.6 million in the last budget and city staff have “recalculated” that for 2021 at $184.1 million, “a decrease of $5.5 million from the projection in the previous budget cycle.”
Members of the public can speak their piece on the proposed budget at the Monday, Nov. 30 finance committee meeting that’s set to begin at 2 p.m.