Surrey could halt work on Cloverdale ice rink, raise taxes as part of 5-year plan

Over $135 million in spending on libraries, community centres, parks and more is in question in Surrey after the city release a proposed budget plan Monday afternoon aimed at cutting municipal debt.

Community association president says Cloverdale rink sorely needed in underserved neighbourhood

Cloverdale Community Association has fought for a new ice rink for five years. (surrey.ca)

Over $135 million in spending on libraries, community centres, parks and more is in question in Surrey after the city release a proposed budget plan Monday afternoon aimed at cutting municipal debt.

The city posted a proposed five-year spending plan, signed off on by city manager Vincent Lalonde and general manager of finance Kam Grewal, that outlines how it could save $136 million in future debt through the "postponement" of debt-funded projects already approved.

"Over the last several years, under the direction of previous Mayor and Councils, the City undertook an aggressive Capital Program, which required the acquisition of debt," the report said.

"Accordingly, the proposed 2019-2023 General Capital Program reflects significant reductions to previously approved debt requirements."

Spending on the Cloverdale Sport & Ice Complex, the Grandview Heights Community Centre & Library, an Indigenous gathering place, a modular child care project, and work on RCMP facilities are on the listed of proposed postponements.

A chart in the proposed budget documents outlines the debt-funded spending that could be 'postponed' by council, despite already being approved. (surrey.ca)

'We're very upset'

Cloverdale Community Association president Mike Bola called the inclusion of the $44 million Cloverdale ice rink on that list a big disappointment — although, he said, there were "rumours" the project would be postponed.

"We're very upset," Bola said. "There's no reason they should be stopping this particular arena."

Bola, 40 said there is only one sheet of ice in the neighbourhood, in an aging building. He said he and others have been fighting for a better rink for more than five years.

"A lot of Surrey hockey associations are travelling to Delta, Langley, for practice times and to host their own home games."

He says the lack of ice in the neighbourhood is exhausting as a parent with three hockey-playing kids — aged 15, 12 and 10 — when he has to drive them all around the Lower Mainland for their sport.

"It causes a lot of health and mental stress and I don't think council realizes this," he said.

"If mayor and council stop this, it's going to be a huge thing in the next election and it's going to make or break certain slates."

Council to take a look Dec. 11

The proposed budget also calls for a property tax increase that will work out to about $59 per home.

It also recommends a freeze on hiring future RCMP officers as the city transitions to a municipal police force — one of the biggest commitments by new Mayor Doug McCallum.

CBC News asked for comment from the city but did not receive any Monday night. McCallum is scheduled to address the media Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. PT.

The proposed budget also recommends an RCMP hiring freeze as the city transitions to a municipal police force — one of McCallum's biggest campaign promises. (Colin Fode/CBC)

Last week, McCallum made the city's debt load an issue. In a news release, he said he was "shaken to the core" after learning the city's debt apparently stood at $514 million.

But city staff later clarified that "The $514 million figure is actually the projected debt the city would incur under the current five year financial plan approved in December of 2017, if it was allowed to proceed to completion."

The proposed budget will go to the city's finance committee Dec. 11.

About the Author

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is a journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.