The board governing the Surrey Police Service (SPS) says the force's proposed budget of $142 million for 2024 aligns with the city's financial forecast and would lead to 408 officers being deployed by the end of the year.
Mike Serr, who was appointed administrator of the Surrey Police Board in November 2023, made the numbers public at a news conference on Thursday morning.
Serr was made sole administrator in order to oversee the transition of policing services in Surrey from the RCMP to the SPS, a move contested by Mayor Brenda Locke, who was board chair.
Serr said the SPS budget proposes to spend $142 million in 2024 to have 526 officers, including new recruits, and 23 civilian staff hired by the end of the year — making up about 67 per cent of policing services in the city, with RCMP comprising the rest.
"This budget is dependent on the winding down of the Surrey RCMP to complement the growth of SPS," said Serr.
By the end of the year, Serr said, the SPS would have 408 officers deployed and working on the front lines out of a total of 785 officers in Surrey. He said the extra officers would be recruited from across Canada.
The proposed budget comes as Locke continues to defy the police transition, which the province ordered under law last November.
Locke, along with Peter German, a lawyer and former RCMP deputy commissioner who is advising the city on the transition, have said the SPS has been over budget.
Serr said the SPS's proposed budget was reviewed by auditor Deloitte and would use $142 million of the city's $337 million available funds for policing in the city and the transition, according to city financial plans and reports.
The transition from the Surrey RCMP to the Surrey Police Service has now stretched over nearly four years. (Ben Nelms/CBC, Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Serr said he was making the SPS's proposed budget public, two months after they were presented to city staff, in order to be transparent over the police transition in Surrey, which has been fraught with enmity and contradicting financial numbers.
"I believe this budget, along with its underlying assumptions, will give city council confidence with the number associated with moving this transition forward," he said.
"It is my hope that this transparent budget process will give clarity, that it will give comfort to the residents and the businesses of Surrey."
Solicitor general commends 'responsible budget'
On Thursday, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said he would not get involved with the city's budget process, despite his conflict over the matter with Locke.
He said at a news conference that the numbers presented by Serr should mean no additional tax increase over policing for city residents.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth praised the budget proposal tabled by Serr, and said it likely would not result in tax increases in Surrey. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)
"Today the administrator presented a budget that would ensure the transition to the Surrey Police Service, which is required by law, can proceed in a way that doesn't impact the taxpayers of Surrey, which is something that the mayor has been concerned about," Farnworth said. "This is a responsible budget."
A statement posted on the City of Surrey's website Thursday afternoon, attributed to Mayor Brenda Locke, was critical of Serr's outlook and Farnworth's comments. It rejected the notion any property tax increase would not need to include provisions for policing costs.
"To suggest such a thing is not only disingenuous but reveals the continued lack of knowledge and due diligence on the part of the NDP government when it comes to the financial ramifications of this transition to Surrey," it read.
The statement said the province had previously estimated that the switch to the SPS will cost a minimum of $30 million extra per year, which the city says if not covered by the province, will fall to Surrey taxpayers.
The province is giving Surrey $150 million over five years to help with the transition and policing. Serr said Surrey had $83 million from 2023's policing budget carrying over into this year, and a further $10 million unspent from a policing transition project fund.
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke was critical of Serr and Farnworth in a Thursday statement. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
Locke also said she was skeptical of SPS being able to afford the hiring of 180 officers it has promised in 2024.
"That's an unrealistic goal when you consider it is like trying to hire enough officers to staff an entire police department the size of Delta Police," she said in her statement.
A resolution process exists in which a disputed budget between police forces and municipalities can be determined by a provincial adjudicator.
The City of Surrey has not yet released its approved financial plan for 2024, which would include policing allocations. It has until March 15 to do so.