SURREY – The Surrey Board of Trade presented a high-level review of the City of Surrey Financial Plan for 2019 and its future Capital Plan. The business organization provided ‘Opportunity Recommendations’ to the City of Surrey Finance Committee, Surrey Mayor and Council, at the public hearing on Tuesday, December 11, 2018.
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 evaluates the City budget to ensure that Surrey’s tax rates and investments are conducive for business growth/retention and infrastructure investments.
“The proposed financial plan does not have an economic vision and investments to make Surrey a destination for creative industries, road infrastructure improvements, youth investments, industry hubs, public safety, and public engagement,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.
“Surrey is always left behind in infrastructure investments. The Surrey Board of Trade’s opportunity to drive economic growth through the private sector will be pivotal.”
The proposed plan was passed by the City’s Finance Committee by 1 vote. It goes to Council for adoption at the next Council meeting, December 17.
1. Public input:
The Surrey Board of Trade suggests a longer time period for the public to review documents. Mayor and Council should consider enhancing their mechanisms to encourage public input by having public engagement extended to later in the evening.
2. Comparative study and communication:
The City of Surrey can enhance transparency by improving communication to businesses on where their tax dollars are going. COSMOS is an important tool to provide information on what is happening in the City but a simplified explanation, through graphics, that could be sent to businesses by mail and/or email through the Surrey Board of Trade would increase transparency.
3. Enhanced access and visual engagement:
The easy-to-read and well organized documentation has been applauded by many, including the CD Howe in their review of municipality’s financial reports. The Surrey Board of Trade suggests making financial reports easier to find on the City’s website and use of graphics to outline where tax investments are being made, making the information easier to understand.
Taxes, levy, investments, economy
1. Property taxes, road levy, revenue streams, government downloading:
There may be opportunities for the City to increase revenues by means other than increasing taxes. Options available to the City include exploring new paradigms of financial planning and downloading from different levels of government to provide community services.
2. Cannabis revenue stream:
An opportunity for another revenue stream is via cannabis taxation. The City of Surrey needs to focus on capitalizing on legalized cannabis.
3. Mayor’s Economic Competitiveness Advisory Committee:
A committee dedicated to economic competitiveness would ensure the ongoing engagement and involvement of the business community. The committee could include a cross-section of business, academic, labour and community leaders to provide input for a Prosperity Implementation Plan. The working group could lead to revenue stream collaboration. The City should continue to focus on creating jobs in Surrey (Job Worker Ratio KPI).
4. Ease of doing business in Surrey – Streamlining Efficiencies:
As soon as possible, Surrey needs to implement more business-friendly practices by providing information on:
· Starting a business – Procedures, time, cost, and minimum capital to open a new business;
· Construction permits – Procedures, time, and costs to build
· Access to electricity – Procedures, time, and cost required to obtain an electricity connection for a new warehouse; and,
· Registering property – Procedures, time, and cost to register commercial real estate.
5. Capital investments:
The Surrey Board of Trade notes the 2019 tax rate reduction but caution that the City is still playing catch-up on civic infrastructure investments. Investments in new facilities for the community are essential to providing positive outlets for youth and to attract and retain investment in the City through livable centres for employees.
Surrey’s debt falls well below the limit as defined in the B.C. Municipal Act and regulated by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
7. Accounting practices:
The Surrey Board of Trade congratulates the City of Surrey on their accounting practices. 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. 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.
8. Downloading of costs to Surrey:
The Surrey Board of Trade recommends reporting the downloading of costs to the City by different levels of government.
9. Tax mix between Class 1 and 3 businesses:
There needs to be significant dialogue with Surrey businesses before shifting the property tax mix to 60% residential and 40% business from the current 70/30 ratio.
Surrey’s spending is low per resident but developer fees to the city are on the rise. Developer fees are meant to re-invest in needed city infrastructure.
1. Capital investments:
a. Clayton Community Centre – Recreation, Arts & Library Facility:
The Surrey Board of Trade is in agreement that there is a need for community facilities in the Clayton area as the growth of East Clayton in the next few years will be big.
b. Surrey Arts Centre
There is an opportunity for Council to renovate the Surrey Arts Centre to improve the performing arts. This capital project should be moved to 2019, not postponed.
c. Cultural corridor – postponed investment of $300,000
The Surrey Board of Trade asks the City of Surrey to include arts and culture as part of its economic development strategy to strengthen community connections, establish new partnerships, and advance the potential for all of Surrey to be a cultural corridor.
d. Performance Art Centre
Engaging in a private-public-partnership to build the centre should be explored by the City. Surrey absolutely needs this foundational infrastructure in Surrey to make surrey a cultural arts destination.
Social Policy & Workforce Development:
The Surrey Board of Trade suggests the City of Surrey consider innovative ways to protect rental stock of housing. New opportunities to redefine affordable housing to income sensitive housing as a way of ensuring that more than just social housing needs are being addressed. Partnering with not-for-profits to build affordable housing should also be explored.
We recommend an analysis of the increased costs and pressures to cities.
There is an opportunity for Council to proactively issue an implementation program that includes enhanced advocacy to the different levels of government to harness further investments in Surrey schools.
4. Social Planning department
There is an opportunity for the City’s Social Planning Department to re-envision social planning through a Social Policy Framework that interconnects with economic development. Issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, child care have economic solutions in partnership with the business community.
1. Rapid transit needs within Surrey
We are committed to work with our new Council to put in place a suitable plan that begins to build a city network of rapid transportation for our business community that revitalizes Surrey’s town centres with transit-oriented development. Transit should be about city-building and focus on facilitating travel needs within our geographically divided City, not out of it.2. Road and traffic safety utility levy
The elimination of the 1% Roads and Traffic Levy for the 2019-2023 period will reduce the monies required for the City’s repaving program and critical bike and sidewalk infrastructure investments. The Surrey Board of Trade asks Council to re-visit this decision.
The Surrey Board of Trade asks Mayor and Council to put a hold on RCMP Transition Plans.
Surrey has many opportunities to innovate and trim excess costs while providing better services.
For more information, the FULL SURREY BOARD OF TRADE PRESENTATION