Statement from City Manager on SPS Budget
The Surrey Police Service (SPS) has asserted in a recent media release that Mayor Brenda Locke erred in claiming that SPS is running a deficit budget.
The Surrey Police Service (SPS) has asserted in a recent media release that Mayor Brenda Locke erred in claiming that SPS is running a deficit budget. This assertion is wrong. SPS’s own media release acknowledges that SPS vastly exceeded its 2023 approved budget. While SPS submitted a proposed 2023 budget of $157.6M to the City, Surrey Council only authorized a budget of $48.8M. SPS does not deny it has far exceeded that limit. By law, SPS is prohibited from spending amounts not approved by Surrey Council.
Even if SPS was dissatisfied, SPS did not have the authority to unilaterally spend over its approved budget. That is not how municipal budgeting works. SPS failed to take any steps in a timely way to challenge or revisit Surrey Council’s budget approval. SPS was required to do so before spending unapproved funds. It has only very recently attempted to engage the Director of Police Services to intervene pursuant to the Police Act, well after the $48.8M approved budget has been far exceeded and well after the time allowed for initiating the Police Act disputes process had passed. The Director of Police Services has no jurisdiction in the matter.
The Surrey Police Board (SPB) administrator claims that SPS officials worked with City officials on an increased budget after the Province purported to direct the City to transition to SPS. This characterization is misleading. In response to inquiries from the City regarding how SPS was tracking relative to its approved budget, SPS later advised the City that its spending was projected to be $75M for 2023 if the status quo was maintained and no new officers were hired. This correspondence did not and could not constitute approval of an increased budget. Surrey Council is the only body legally authorized to review and approve proposed budgets, and SPS chose to spend over and above the approved budget without first obtaining Council’s authorization. The SPB administrator’s claim that Mayor Locke refused “to provide formal approval of the agreed to budget and … misrepresent[ed] this as overspending” is baseless. Only Council approves the budget and SPS has overspent the budgeted amount approved by Council.
As questions related to the future of SPS and its spending are currently the subject of both a court proceeding and the disputes process belatedly commenced by SPS under the Police Act, the City will have more to say about the matter in those forums. For now, the City notes the SPB administrator’s acknowledgement that a $75M budget was never approved by Council and that even the $75M presented by SPS did not propose the hiring of additional officers such as those late 2023 additional hires.
Finally, the SPB administrator has suggested that the “transition is legally bound to continue” and that “it is inappropriate to suggest that the continued hires and associated budget is a burden on taxpayers, just as it is unfair to refuse to pay these officers.” The question of whether the transition must continue is currently before the courts. It is not the appointed SPB administrator’s decision to make. In the meantime, it would be unfair to taxpayers for the City to condone SPS’s spending and hiring without limitation, approval or legal authority. While it is unfortunate that new officers may have accepted positions without being aware of these circumstances, the City maintains that this is entirely due to SPS’s failure to be transparent with its recruits concerning its budget restraints and legal obligations.