EDITORIAL: Surprise party

An extra $100 tax levy is a holiday gift that Surrey property owners did not expect

It’s a New Year’s gift Surrey residents didn’t expect.

All property owners must fork over an additional $100 tax levy this year, or place the city’s ambitious capital program at risk.

Call it what you will, it amounts to a flat tax of $100 for those who own their own homes – and will no doubt be passed down to renters, as well. (As will the 28 per cent increase in secondary-suite fees – another $116.)

Meanwhile, Surrey First politicians – swept into office across the board in November’s election – say the need for the levy comes as just as much of a surprise to them as it does to residents.

That’s why they never mentioned such a possibility during the election campaign. The coalition said during its campaign that its policing promises could have been covered by growth revenue, dividends from the city’s development corporation and an increase in secondary-suite fees.

What boosted our tax bills by another $100, without public discussion, debate or warning? Finance committee chair Tom Gill said there were unanticipated costs, including a benefits increase to the RCMP and a pay increase to Surrey firefighters totalling $6.5 million, that combined to jeopardize the capital program.

Mayor Linda Hepner also blames unexpected costs for sending optimistic estimates sideways. It was a shock to her that operating just one of Surrey’s pools was going to cost $2 million annually, she said.

Aside from that, comment on the issue from our Surrey First representatives has been disappointingly scant. Some are new to civic government, admittedly, but some – like Hepner and Gill and Couns. Judy Villeneuve, Barbera Steele, Mary Martin and Bruce Hayne – have been in office for years.

Anyone who controls a family budget knows that unexpected costs can derail the best laid plans. But isn’t having a handle on these things on a civic level the reason we entrust politicians with our votes and tax dollars?

Isn’t that why, figuratively speaking, they get paid the big bucks?

Now we’re facing another $100 hit to our family budgets, because we didn’t realize – and evidently Surrey First politicians didn’t either – that city finances are a matter of by guess and by golly.

While nasty surprises might be expected now and then, subsequent silence from our newly elected representatives isn’t quite what we expected when we cast our votes.

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