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Gibsons Curling Club slapped with $19,000 in taxes

BC Assessment’s tax notice came as a ‘shock and surprise’ to the club 
The Gibsons Curling Club was “shocked and surprised” to receive its first-ever property tax notice this fall. On Nov. 21 – nearly 50 years to the day the club was founded – spokesperson Ed Hill (pictured) asked the Town of Gibsons for help.

An unexpected tax notice that could total $19,000 has put the Gibsons Curling Club and Town of Gibsons “between a rock and a hard place,” Mayor Silas White said in a Nov. 21 meeting. 

Ed Hill, the club’s league coordinator and spokesperson, described the notice from BC Assessment as a “shock and surprise” to the Gibsons Curling Club at a Gibsons committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 21. The notice, received by the club on Sept. 29, stated the curling club is now considered a taxable occupier of municipal land leased from the Town of Gibsons and, as such, is solely responsible for property taxes beginning in the 2023 taxation year. 

The club would have applied for permissive tax exemption, but that deadline has passed. The club has never paid taxes in the half-century of its existence.

Hill told council the tax payments for 2023 and 2024 both fall within the club’s fiscal year ending in September 2024. The 2023 property tax is $8,958.68 — plus a late fee of five per cent for overdue payment — so the club anticipates owing approximately $19,000 within the year. The Gibsons Curling Club faces a late fine that is automatically applied according to a Town of Gibsons bylaw, since the tax payment was due on Nov. 6. 

“The tax notice was a complete surprise with virtually little or no time to appeal or inquire,” Hill said. “We have $19,000 to pay and we need help. Neither our budget nor our accounts allow for that surprise. We are on the edge…”

The club president has reached out to the assessment authority, the delegates told council, and BC Assessment said they have to deal with the tax assessor — the Town of Gibsons. 

The club is approaching BC Assessment, but don’t anticipate much luck in appealing, Hill said. 

Hill and the club’s treasurer, Denise Henshaw, appeared as a delegation to ask council to consider providing a grant to the club until they can apply for permissive tax exemption, and is asking the town to consider forgoing the portion of the tax that goes to the town (approximately one-third of the total) to “soften the blow." The club is also requesting support and guidance with appealing to BC Assessment as well as approaching the Sunshine Coast Regional District with a similar request. 

“Come on guys, how about that $3,000 back at least so we can keep flying rocks up and down on frozen water?” Hill asked.

The club incorporated on Nov. 22, 1973, nearly 50 years to the date of the committee meeting. The land was previously Crown land, then became property of the Town of Gibsons and was leased to the club. Hill repeatedly stressed that the club is a self-funded nonprofit and volunteer-run with the exception of one employee, the icemaker. He cited the club’s contributions to the community, including promoting healthy activity for seniors and youth, and its support of the Special Olympics. The club is still recovering from the effects the pandemic had on its ability to generate revenue. Their membership of 160 people and their volunteerism has kept the club alive, Hill said.

Town of Gibsons has not known about the tax notice for very long either, White said.  “Our staff expressed the same kind of shock when we learned about it at the town,” White said. "Personally, I just find it deplorable the way BC Assessment does this, especially to a nonprofit in this way. We're all kind of between this rock and a hard place now because of their procedures. At the very least I think we need to suggest to them that they need to do things differently. I don't know how they can expect this of anyone, let alone nonprofits.”

Coun. David Croal asked about other funding options available to the club. Henshaw said they are always looking for fundraising opportunities, but taxes are not usually considered for grants.

While council’s protocol is not to make a decision directly after a delegation, in a previously scheduled special council meeting the same evening, council agreed to give the club a grant to cover the Gibsons portion of the taxes and waive the five per cent late fee, White told Coast Reporter. They also agreed to write a letter of support for the club for its appeal to BC Assessment.