Observations and Recommendations in General:
Increased business taxes, cancel RCMP transition, improve development approvals, focus on economic development assets, art & culture investments, increase transparency, housing & transportation Strategies and municipal spending
Today, the Surrey Board of Trade presented their observations and recommendations, from an economic, business and livability perspective, to the City of Surrey Finance Committee on the 2020 budget and five-year plan.
The Surrey Board of Trade monitors public sector spending to maximize productivity in the economy and encourage growth in the private sector and for Surrey. The City Budget is important to the Surrey Board of Trade evaluating whether Surrey’s tax rates are conducive for business growth, retention and infrastructure investments.
The proposed City of Surrey budget needs a sustained economic development focus, needs to cancel the RCMP transition and invest in infrastructure assets throughout Surrey to ensure Surrey is an opportunity city.
SURREY BOARD OF TRADE REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
1. BUSINESS TAX INCREASE
Business will be facing a significant, unexpected tax increase (major industry to $24.00 per $1,000 assessment; and class 6 business property tax increase of 5.5%.
Our observation is that this is not an acceptable increase in a short period of time. There was no consultation with the business community.
Businesses have struggled from increased layered costs from all levels of government. This one big business cost at the municipal level in the form of property taxes will impact business sustainability and business attraction, especially to keep and attract a solid manufacturing base to Surrey. Currently, Surrey has the most manufacturers in British Columbia. It is this industry sector that will be hit the hardest by the proposed business tax increases.
2. PUBLIC SAFETY INFRASTRUCTURE
In this budget, the Surrey Board of Trade suggests that the City of Surrey cancel the transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force. The transition is not approved by the Province. There is a committee looking at the costing, and other investigative/infrastructure/personnel implications to provide a recommendation to the provincial government. Why does this budget include costing towards an unapproved municipal police force and a police-transition project office?
3. DEVELOPMENT AND PERMIT APPLICATION APPROVAL DELAYS
There is a hiring freeze in place across all departments during this budget cycle. Continued development and permit delays are a significant concern. Investments for staff support are needed in order to attract and support a thriving development industry.4. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
This budget needed to be an economic development budget. Surrey has many advantages of assets and location, but this budget needs to have a people-centric economic development lens and strategy for housing, place-based economic strategies to support investment and employment, student housing, and labour attraction.
For Surrey to grow, we need to start investing in our future. Investing in projects that will not only create jobs and bring revenue to the city, but also bring numerous socio-economic benefits to Surrey’s workforce.
Investments in Re-branding the City are needed. The slogan ‘The Future Lives Here” is outdated. Surrey is an Opportunity City now. The Future is already here.
5. ART & CULTURE INVESTMENTS:
The opportunity to invest in additional arts infrastructure (Performing Arts Centre) is missed. Surrey needs it and we will be left behind. Arts & culture is part of economic development. Private sector partnerships through the Surrey City Development Corporation is an opportunity to move this forward.
6. MUNICIPAL SPENDING PER PERSON
Surrey’s spending is low per resident. However, developer fees to the City are on the rise. The Surrey Board of Trade asks the City of Surrey to look into this.
7. DOWNLOADING OF COSTS TO SURREY
The Surrey Board of Trade recommends reporting of the downloading of costs to the city by different levels of government.
8. HOUSING & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
The Surrey Board of Trade calls for innovative protection and investment into rental housing stock, that is our workforce housing.
9. RIVER INVESTMENTS
Surrey has many unserved and under utilized riverfront areas. There is an opportunity for the City of Surrey to further invest in the Fraser River riverfront to make it more attractive and make it a destination for music, arts and tourism. The Surrey Board of Trade recommends Council explore this investment.
We have a shared interest in quality transit, convenient connections and other transit services, and minimizing impacts during construction. Emphasis on the importance for an efficient and reliable transit system that reduces overall travel times by minimizing connections, increasing frequency and supporting a robust bus integration plan. We need creative micro-transit within Surrey to connect and develop our town centres.
Over 100,000 new residents are expected to be in Surrey by 2026. Investment in Surrey’s growth and the type of new infrastructure required that needs to be in place to support existing and future citizens and businesses so that they can live, work, learn and play in Surrey must be a priority for the City of Surrey.
Call to action – amend the proposed City of Surrey budget or postpone approval.
Full presentation – 7 pages was received by the City of Surrey by the deadline date of November 28th.
The Surrey Board of Trade is an independent not-for-profit city building 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 over 3,000 members, representing over 6,000 business contacts and over 60,000 employees.