Surrey’s Financial Plan – A Brief Overview
Every year the City of Surrey releases its sliding five-year financial plan which is the end result of the budget process. Back in June, the City posted their plan online and I’ve been reviewing the 334 page document. What I like about the financial plan is the bold heading on page 1–“Focus on Sustainability”–that set the context of how the City operates.
The Sustainability Charter is built on three key pillars: Economic, Environmental and Socio-Cultural. The Charter stipulates that all City objectives and decisions must be considered based on their forecasted economic, environmental, and socio-cultural effects. Consequently, the Financial Plan presents all City and individual departmental accomplishments and future initiatives through these three pillars of sustainability.
It’s only been 4 years since the Charter was adopted, and while the City of Surrey still has a long way to go to achieve sustainability, I can see the effect the Charter is starting to have on Surrey already, with recent commitments to things like a multimodal transportation policy and green energy policies such as buildings district energy systems.
While the financial plan is on a five-year scale, it is really only the current budget year that has committed funding. Looking at the finances, I appreciate how large Surrey has become in both population and land-mass. The City will spend over $460 million in operating expenditures and $250 million in capital projects this year; that’s some serious money. Starting on page 306 of the report, the City outlines the major projects that it is working on. While it’s worth check out the all the projects yourself, there are a few projects that caught my attention.
The largest project that the City is working on is the new City Hall and Civic Plaza in Whalley. This year the City plans to spend about $48 million on that project which will redefine Whalley and solidify Surrey as a modern and increasingly urban community.
The City of Surrey will also be investing $20 million in a Bio-Fuel Processing Centre that will “process organic waste into a low cost, carbon neutral natural gas that would be used as an alternative vehicle grade fuel.” Less sexy, but important is the City’s $29.5 million commitment to upgrade its work yards which will include new offices, maintenance shops, and covered storage.
What really caught my attention was the City’s continued commitment to the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society and restoring the Interurban service at least as a tourist tram. As we posted earlier, the Society moved to their new home last month with the help of $2.9 million from the City. The FVHRS originally planned to have the tram in service for the 2010 Olympics, but the launch of service has been pushed back to sometime in 2013.
I have to commend the City for the level of detail and explanation that they provide in the financial plan, though one of my concerns is that the 300+ page plan might be too large for most people to read and understand. It would be great to see Surrey produce a “Coles Notes” version with financial charts of this document that would be more accessible to more members of the general public. This will help better inform people how the City is funded and what it’s spending money on.