SURREY – The Surrey Board of Trade gave their annual review and recommendations to the City of Surrey Finance Committee, plus Mayor and Council, on Monday November 27.
“We gave a very high-level overview of the Surrey Board of Trade’s perspectives on the City of Surrey Financial Plan for 2018,” said CEO Anita Huberman. “We want 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 monitors public sector spending to maximize productivity in the economy and encourage growth in the private sector. 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 BOARD OF TRADE REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Public input
The Surrey Board of Trade suggests a longer time period for the public to review documents and more mechanisms to encourage public input.
2. Comparative study and communication
There is an opportunity for the City of Surrey to enhance transparency by improving communication to businesses on where their tax dollars are going.
3. Enhanced access and visual engagement
A suggestion to the City of Surrey is to make the financial statements easier to find on the City’s website and a graphic that simply describes “What’s in it for me” for residents and businesses that identify where tax investments are being made for each class of taxation.
TAXES, LEVY, INVESTMENTS, ECONOMY
1. Property Taxes, Road Levy, Revenue Streams, Government Downloading
The Surrey Board of Trade supports, with caution, the proposed 3.9% property tax increase.
The Surrey Board of Trade is well aware of rising costs to businesses and residents from external factors. Consistent communication on where these increased investments are being directed, such as the increase of $93 on an average single family dwelling (directed to public safety measures) and a Road & Traffic Levy increase of $19.
2. Cannabis Revenue Stream
With opportunity for revenue, however, the City of Surrey needs to focus on the cost of legalization to the City.
3. SCDC – Economic Agent
Surrey City Development Corporation is an economic agent, contributing to employable lands and livability. Currently, we see an over-reliance on construction. A focus on a diversification of jobs is needed.
4. Mayor’s Economic Competitiveness Advisory Committee
Implement a Mayor’s Economic Competitiveness Advisory Group be developed to provide input into a type of prosperity implementation plan and City Revenue Stream Collaboration.
5. Accounting Practices
The Surrey Board of Trade congratulates the City of Surrey on their accounting practices.
6. New Revenue Stream
The Surrey Board of Trade was pleased to see an operating agreement with Fortis BC Energy.
7. Downloading of costs
The Surrey Board of Trade recognizes that there are many costs that the city must bear from senior governments. Although this may be difficult, we recommend that a report of the costs to the city be done that illustrates clearly what downloading looks like.
8. Other financial observations
Capital increase of $34,311 in 2018 ($62,281 in 2017 to $96,592 in 2018) and we noted utility increases for business for both water and sewer.
1. Vision & Implementation
Good step on revitalized Strategic Plan (and its components) for the Parks, Recreation and Culture Department.
2. Capital investments
The specific capital investments including a performing arts space in City Centre and South Surrey contemporary art gallery and café are welcomed. As you are aware, the Surrey Board of Trade is working with Music Canada to brand Surrey as a music city destination.
3. Cultural Grants
The Surrey Board of Trade is pleased to see continued investments into this program. We are pleased to see that the City of Surrey is also conducting a comprehensive review of the cultural grants program.
SOCIAL POLICY & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
Consider ways to innovatively protect the rental stock in Surrey.
Pleased to see Surrey’s leadership in reaching out to the Semiahmoo First Nation for a municipal type of servicing agreement for water and sewer.
As with the downloading of costs from senior governments, we recommend an analysis of the increased costs and pressures to the City of Surrey, the recipient of most refugees settling in the Lower Mainland.
Develop a strategic plan in conjunction with the School Board that connects forecasted development with anticipated school spaces to advocate for funds to be available well in advance of critical need
5. Social Planning Department
Review investments into the City’s Social Planning Department from a human capital perspective or a re-visioning of social planning that interconnects with economic development.
1. Light Rail Transit (LRT)
The Surrey Board of Trade continues to support Light Rail Transit as the preferred transit solution to increased congestion in Surrey.
Potholes and expansion of roads to decrease congestion (new north/south and east/west connections) were considered priorities.
The City Budget invested in increasing the RCMP with an ongoing increased complement. The Surrey Board of Trade is pleased to participate in the Mayor’s Task Force on Gang Violence Prevention. This is a step in the right direction with the revised public safety strategy.
The Surrey Board of Trade asks the City to consider implications of cannabis growth on agricultural lands.
“The Surrey Board of Trade understands and works on meeting the aspirations of Surrey in the face of significant internal and external pressures. We want the City of Surrey to continue to have a sustainable financial framework for municipal services and city-building investments involving both revenue and expense measures.”
“As the Surrey Board of Trade’s current membership numbers 2,500, with over 6,000 business contacts representing over 60,000 employees, finding that balance between servicing public needs and ensuring private sector productivity is always a challenge.”