She said she wept as she walked to Surrey’s budget meeting Monday, knowing that if planned tax hikes passed, she would no longer be available to afford her home.
On Monday night, Surrey’s finance committee – comprised of all of city council – approved a budget that calls for a $162 hike in taxes.
For Binder Mahal, it also means an additional $116 for her secondary suite, a necessary addition to make her home affordable.
“Our house needs a fence and we can’t afford it,” she told the finance committee. “Who knows how long our fridge or stove will last?
“Please, please, this is not fair,” she implored. “We are not happy to live in Surrey anymore.“
Since Surrey First came into power nine years ago, taxes have gone up 100 per cent, she said, adding her taxes are now $4,000 annually.
“I cannot take this any more.“
Surrey’s finance committee met on Monday afternoon to discuss the five-year financial plan for 2014-2018.
Staff outlined several changes to next year’s budget, the most prominent of which is the addition of a $100 recreation and culture levy to cover the cost of rec centres and other parks construction.
The levy became necessary to fund the hiring of 100 new police officers, which was a major part of the Surrey First election campaign in the fall. The coalition now holds all seats on Surrey council.
Surrey is planning to keep the property tax increase to 2.9 per cent next year – or $46.20 for the average home worth $648,000.
A one-per-cent road levy introduced in 2008 as a temporary five-year measure will continue for another 10 years, according to finance committee chair Coun. Tom Gill.
The one-per-cent road levy amounts to a $15.93 increase for next year.
In all, the taxes for the average Surrey home will be climbing from $1,593 this year to $1,755 next year.
If the home has a secondary suite, as with Mahal, it’s going to get even more expensive.
Surrey is raising the secondary suite fee $116 to $526 per home – a 28-per-cent increase.
The secondary suite fee hike is explained by increasing costs associated with the bylaw department, police force and fire services.
Along with Mahal, other members of the public attending the Monday afternoon meeting were less than impressed.
Linda Sromberg said Surrey’s claim of having the lowest taxes in the region is misguided.
Stromberg said she “objects to further tax increases” she sees in next year’s budget.
She was particularly bothered by the levy.
“There was no indication prior to or during the election that funding for culture and recreation would require such a tax,” Stromberg said. “The added levy/tax has come as a complete surprise and I would like you to consider alternative sources,” she told council.
Tarlochan Sandhu, 63, asked council to hire some “experienced” police officers.
He suffers from Parkinson’s disease and said last year he was handcuffed by officers who thought he was drunk while he was having an attack.
After they called their superior, he said they were laughing at him.
Gill apologized on behalf of the Surrey RCMP and assured him the officers arriving next year will be fully trained.
After hearing from the public, the finance committee unanimously endorsed the budget without much discussion.
It will be back before council next month for final adoption.