Surrey: Current city tax notices are in the mail later this month and Surrey Councillor Linda Annis is warning taxpayers to expect “sticker shock” on future tax notices, once costs for a new Surrey Police Department are finally unveiled.
Using the Vancouver Police Department as the model, Annis says future tax notices could see a 60 per cent increase in policing costs, a far cry from the 10 per cent increase promised by Doug McCallum during the municipal election. Annis said she voted in support of the local police department in order to look at the entire issue, but her support is not a “a blank cheque” when it comes to costs.
“Surrey taxpayers need to be properly consulted about the real costs of any new policing model for British Columbia’s second largest city,” said Annis. “Vancouver is advising Surrey as it works to set up its own police department, but when you do a side-by-side comparison with Vancouver the additional cost of a Surrey Police Department could be six times more than the increase promised by the Mayor. Our taxpayers need to know the real costs of a local police department, and they need to have a serious say about how much more we’re all willing to pay. This is our city’s largest annual expenditure and it’s going to be with us for generations. People need all the facts in order to make sure they’re comfortable with the added costs that come with a local police department.
“So far, decisions have been made behind closed doors and frankly that makes me nervous. I want complete transparency, with taxpayers having their say. If we’re moving towards the Vancouver model then Surrey taxpayers should be prepared for Vancouver-style costs. Take a good look at your property tax notice from the city and you’ll see what you’re paying today for policing. Then, ask yourself if you’re willing, or able, to pay 60 per cent more? That’s the range we’d need to pay to have a Vancouver-style policing model. Annis said the Vancouver model means Surrey would need to add some 300 new officers. If we’re not committed to adding hundreds of officers then why have we gone through this costly exercise in the first place?”
Annis said recent comments by the Mayor that half of the Surrey police department would come from existing RCMP officers is news to her and the RCMP.
“As a councillor I haven’t heard that we’ve canvassed current RCMP officers, and when I talked to the RCMP they said there has been no polling of their members about joining a Surrey Police Department,” added Annis. “There’s also the issue of transferring pensions, something that is not easily done and will be a cost to the City of Surrey. These are important questions and issues and they need real answers that are honest and detailed.”
Annis said every councillor was elected by the voters of Surrey to stand up for their interests, particularly when it comes to spending tax dollars.
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do, because Surrey can’t make an informed decision about policing without the real numbers,” added Annis. “I get the feeling that the Mayor thinks you can make Surrey safer simply by changing the colour of the uniforms. It’s a lot more complicated than that and taxpayers in Surrey need facts and details and an evaluation of what we’ll get for our money and how that equates to making us feel safer. Making the right decision when it comes to policing shouldn’t be political, which is the reason I want to see total transparency and realistic numbers, not a marketing or sales pitch.”