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Gibsons council asks staff to bring proposed tax increase down

Staff presented a proposed tax increase of 7.5 per cent, plus 5 per cent for future policing

Gibsons council had its first glimpse at this year’s prospective tax increase for the preliminary general operating budget: 7.5 per cent, which would not include the taxation for future policing services.

At the Feb. 23 committee of the whole meeting, staff reported a proposed 7.5 per cent tax increase with the total 2024 operating revenue budgeted at $9,684,034, an overall funding/revenue increase of 11 per cent ($937,804) compared to last year’s budget. But that figure does not include increased transfers to reserves for future policing costs — that report is coming to council at the March 5 committee of the whole meeting. On March 19, staff will report on the general capital projects plan, which could require additional taxation funding in the 2024 budget.

The property tax revenue (should it be 7.5 per cent) of $4,314,12 is to cover contractual obligations, inflationary increases and to contribute to the capital program, said a staff report. 

Meanwhile, expenditures, debt payments and transfers to reserves total $9,649,080 in operating expenditures, 12.5 per cent higher ($1,075,350) than in 2023. A budget surplus is calculated to be $34,954, which staff said will help support the capital program.

During the meeting, the director of finance noted that the general operating budget was developed in “the context of the social and economic pressures, not just locally but worldwide, that are … impacting our ability to deliver services” and in the context of council making “great efforts to keep the tax rate low” while making room for the future costs of policing services. She also stated that another factor is the end of the COVID Restart funding. To help take the pressure off taxation, the director of finance said she is using $250,000 in reserve funding to help smooth out some costs.

Staff presented some alternative options to the proposed 7.5 per cent increase. Council could ask to remove the budget surplus, remove transfers to reserves, postpone project initiatives

The committee recommended to have staff explore reducing the tax increase to 3 per cent through initiatives such as increasing revenues, considering service or information sharing with other local governments, and reducing professional services (such as legal services) in the operating budget. With the 5 per cent for future policing services, that would bring the Town of Gibsons tax increase to 8 per cent.

Mayor Silas White commented during the meeting, "This is the most difficult Town of Gibsons budget I’ve ever seen and it isn’t surprising” due to factors such as inflation and the end of COVID-related funding. Because of the 5 per cent taxation for policing, White didn’t want to commit to 7.5 per cent on top of that number. He suggested not planning to have a surplus to start off with, since he said grants could fund a lot of the town’s strategic work. He also suggested postponing the organizational and website redevelopment for a year. 

Coun. David Croal expressed his discomfort with kicking the can down the road. “Nobody likes tax increases, but the big concern is that, sooner or later, someone’s going to have to pay and we’re just passing this on to future generations…”

Later in the meeting, White said the “5 per cent is a reality we have to deal with.”

The tax rate bylaws are anticipated to be adopted on May 7. Find more information at