The Surrey Board of Trade is an independent business organization that supports business and attracts business to Surrey through a diversified service portfolio of government advocacy, international trade, workforce development, business development, cost-saving benefits and business connections. The Surrey Board of Trade has 2,400 members, representing over 6,000 business contacts and over 60,000 employees.
Why is the City Budget important to Surrey’s business organization?
- To ensure that investments for Surrey’s business community are created for our local economy for today and for the future.
- The Surrey Board of Trade, as an industry organization, is mandated to review and make recommendations on government budgets. The Surrey Board of Trade monitors public sector spending to maximize productivity in the economy and encourage growth in the private sector
- The Surrey Board of Trade is a visible and effective organization for the views of our membership & business community. The Surrey Board of Trade is a partner in building Surrey.
- The City Budget is important to the Surrey Board of Trade to evaluate Surrey’s tax rates as being conducive for business growth/retention and infrastructure investments.
Surrey has 3 major sources of revenue, the most significant of which is property taxes (residential, major industry, light industry, business). Surrey has enhanced moderate general tax increases. In 2016, to fund increasing costs related to protective services and other city operations, the city increased the annual property taxes by approximately $70 along with an $18 increase in the Roads and Traffic Safety levy for the average single family dwelling for 2016. In 2015, Surrey generated approximately 30.2% of its general property tax revenue from business and industry.
Building on the Surrey Board of Trade City budget review from last year, the foundation of our presentation is what do we want as a business community – and what do we want as a city? Our perspectives related to investments in the areas of: Transportation – Agriculture – Environment – Public Safety – Tourism/Arts/Culture – Taxation-Red Tape Reduction – Social Policy issues – Development-Land Use – Youth – International Trade-Economic Development.
PROPERTY TAXES, ROAD TRAFFIC LEVY, STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS
The Surrey Board of Trade again supports, with caution, the proposed 3.9% property tax increase plus the 1% increase for the Road and Traffic Levy. The $10 increase to Surrey’s capital parcel tax to help pay for civic amenities is also supported. Surrey offers one of the lowest tax regimes. We need the city to continue investing in infrastructure and amenities to make this a world-class city and decisions need to be made on the comparative tax threshold. We want a robust, civic amenity plan. Does it make sense for us to be the lowest tax regime? Are there other opportunities to derive revenue? We must make strategic investments now, not only in parks, recreation centres, but also cultural corridor investments, convention centre infrastructure and more. The Surrey Board of Trade is committed to working with the city. There may be other ways of collecting revenue other than tax revenue. These are provoking questions, new paradigms for financial planning, that must be considered.
TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY FOR BUSINESS TAXES
There is an opportunity for the City of Surrey to enhance transparency by improving communication to businesses on where their tax dollars are going. The Surrey Board of Trade is committed to helping the City message this to Surrey’s business community.
The Surrey Board of Trade over many years has observed that in contrast to other municipal websites and municipal financial reporting mechanisms, that Surrey does have well-organized, easy-to-read financial documentation. In fact, Surrey has received numerous awards for their financial processes.
The Surrey Board of Trade from an economic context asks the City of Surrey through their Capital Budget Planning to consider ways in which to innovatively protect our rental stock of housing – that is our workforce housing. The City of Surrey may want to explore fast-tracking permits for purpose built housing.
Surrey can use its regulatory process to increase the amount of affordable housing in Surrey by re-introducing an affordable housing levy on new residential developments and/or require a percentage of units of affordable housing in new developments.
DEVELOPMENT & LAND USE & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
There are opportunities to explore additional human capital investments and business attraction tools for the City’s Economic Development Department.
The Surrey Board of Trade is pleased to see improvements for developers on streamlined processes, as per our recommendations from last year.
The Surrey Board of Trade continues to support Light Rail Transit as the preferred solution to move people in a livable community.
The Surrey Board of Trade was pleased to work with the City of Surrey on our annual Road Survey identifying roads/walkways/bikeways that are a priority to Surrey businesses. This supplements information to the City’s 10 year road improvement plan and enhances the livability of our city for businesses today and our for our workforce.
The Surrey Board of Trade supports the increased integration of programs and services focused on reducing crime and specifically providing youth with supportive programming to avoid gang related activity. The City Budget last year invested in increasing the RCMP, but this is not the only solution to reducing crime – it requires the involvement of many stakeholders for an ongoing multi-pronged solution.
FINANCE & TAXATION
- Last year, the Surrey Board of Trade asked the City of Surrey to review the Audit Committee’s use of the Charter Section 90, leading to an expansion of the Committee’s disclosure, where appropriate, of the City’s Internal Audit reports and external Auditor reports. We are asking for an update on this.
- As we move to being the largest city in British Columbia, a worthwhile collaborative research study is to create a dashboard matrix that can be communicated to residents and businesses on where we are as a city with our population and land base as it relates to other comparable global cities. The purpose of this is to determine the infrastructure and amenity gaps.
- Unlike other cities, the Surrey Board of Trade congratulates the City of Surrey on their accounting practices. The presentation of the costs of investments in infrastructure, costs of pension obligations, makes it easier to match the costs and benefits of municipal activities to taxpayers and citizens. The financial results are presented in a timely way.
- One-third of Surrey’s land base is agricultural. A recommendation for the City of Surrey is to work with the Province on a Farm Property Tax Review. The other item to explore for city revenue growth is a review of taxes on Residential Class 1 in the ALR. Are there opportunities to enhance revenues or innovative ways to use land in the Agricultural Land Reserve? There could be an adjustment for valuing agricultural land not used for farming.
- A review of water usage investments and water infrastructure policies needs to take place especially in the advent of climate change.
This is a very high-level overview of the Surrey Board of Trade’s perspectives on the City of Surrey Budget for 2017 and its future financial plan. Our intent is to offer recommendations to work with the City of Surrey to instigate change to enhance the livability of Surrey and to enhance opportunities for businesses and industries for today and for generations to come.