As Gibsons hammers out the details of its 2023 budget, a 6.5 per cent property tax increase remains the recommendation of elected officials.
At a March 21 committee review of the budget, Mayor Silas White and councillors recommend reducing town funding levels for other organizations over increasing taxes further to cover $14,429 in revenue needed to balance the 2023 budget. The committee also shied away from using its recent Growing Communities Fund grant to supplement the budget, an option presented in a staff report for the meeting.
The budget needed additional revenues to cover costs for its recent commitment to the Sue Big Oil campaign, the staff report explained. The town will hold $4,758 in reserve to contribute to a class action legal proceeding by B.C. residents to have major fossil fuel companies pay their share of climate change impact costs, should that action proceed. There was also an addition of $5,500 in spending to the parks budget for items not included in the earlier draft plan.
The committee agreed to support the mayor’s request to see local police victim services and restorative justice programs funded through traffic fine revenues rather than municipal operating budgets. He stated at the meeting that his research has indicated that should be the case. Gibsons’ draft 2023 budget had $10,710 allocated for those programs which the committee recommended be removed. During meeting discussions, it was noted that if funding from Gibsons is still required to keep those programs operating, a budget adjustment could be made later in the year, with the funds coming from reserves.
Another recommended reduction lowers the town’s funding for Sunshine Coast Tourism by $2,000 and recommends $5,200 as the 2023 grant to that organization.
With those changes and by cutting its grants of assistance back to $10,000, rather than adding in two per cent annual increases, the 2023 shortfall was covered.
Previous council decisions re-examined
During the 2023 budget debate, the town elected officials who took office in 2022 adjusted budget commitments made by their predecessors and included in initial drafts by staff. Spending on an off-leash dog park project has been deferred from this year to next, to allow for discussion of this project as council’s strategic plan process.
Also removed from the draft budget was an allocation of $20,000 for a “homelessness support” project, as the committee members identified that the town is continuing its efforts in this area through the grant-supported Everyone Needs a Home initiative.
Another item removed was $5,000 in funding for town participation in the regional district’s joint field strategy project.
The updated budget draft is scheduled for consideration at a special council meeting on March 28. The version slated to go before council for first reading on April 18 will be made available on the town’s website in advance of that meeting.
April 18 is the adjusted date for that month’s regular council meeting. At its March 14 meeting, council agreed to shift its April 4 meeting to the later date due to a scheduling conflict.