Skip to content

Gibsons taxing now for future policing

A 2023 Gibsons’ property tax increase of 6.5 per cent was proposed by the town’s elected officials at its March 7 committee meeting .
Gibsons Town Hall
Gibsons Town Hall.

A 2023 Gibsons’ property tax increase of 6.5 per cent was proposed by the town’s elected officials at its March 7 committee meeting.

If endorsed, that increase will mean the average residential property owner will pay about $75 more for the town’s portion of 2023 property taxes. The impact for the average commercial property would be about $327. This year’s taxation rate bylaws are to be considered at the April 18 Council meeting, with adoption slated for May 2.

Preparing for future policing cost   

Most of the proposed tax rate lift, five per cent, is destined to build a reserve for future policing expenses. In addition, that rate increase and potential increases over the next three years, are aimed at raising tax revenues to the level needed to pay for higher policing costs once the town reaches a population of 5,000.

With a 2021 census population of 4758, Gibsons avoided hitting the population threshold that would have triggered the town’s share of policing expenses to rise from the current 30 to 70 per cent.  With the next census slated for 2026, a staff report on the meeting’s agenda stated it is “likely” that adjustment could occur as soon as 2027. Should that happen, the town’s costs are expected to increase by about one million dollars annually.

In 2021, the previous council initiated a five per cent tax levy to build a reserve for future policing costs and gradually bring the tax rate to a level that would cover the higher yearly costs. While it had stated an intention to raise that levy by five per cent in each subsequent year, the increase was reduced to 2.5 per cent for 2022.

The money contributed by those two adjustments was just shy of $300,000. Now part of the tax base, they will generate an additional $185,000 this year. If approved, the extra five per cent levy in 2023 taxes would almost double the annual contribution amount, the report stated.  

If subsequent five per cent tax increases are made in coming years, by the end of 2026, the portion of tax collections for policing purposes would be $925,000 a year, close to the estimated amount needed to cover the higher annual policing costs. If no additions to the tax levy for future policing costs are made over the next three years, a 22 per cent tax increase would be required to meet those expenses in 2027, when the cost-share change is expected to kick in.

“This is one reality we know is looming, the clock is ticking and the population is growing… we need to get ahead of this,” Coun. David Croal stated in support of increasing 2023 tax rates for that purpose. 

In addition to bringing tax revenues up to the level needed to cover new policing costs, the early tax increases would build a reserve of approximately $2.9 million to offset capital costs related to policing or other needs.

Director of finance Lorraine Coughlin explained that the funds collected in advance are being held in the town’s general operating reserve, so their use is not restricted to policing operations.

Funding 2023 operations

The remaining proposed 1.5 per cent tax increase would be allocated to cover the increased costs of the town’s current operations. In a report requested by the committee, staff reworked the draft 2023 operating budget considered by the committee in February to bring the tax increase down from a proposed 4.5 per cent increase.

That was accomplished by using up the town’s remaining $49,000 of COVID restart funding, taking $29,000 out of reserves, reducing spending on grants of assistance and town hall maintenance as well as eliminating a $15,000 contribution to a community festival account contribution this year.  

Property taxes are slated to cover $3.8 million of Gibsons' operating budget this year, compared to $3.7 million in 2022.  The town’s total operating expenditures for 2023 are forecast to be $8.73 million, up from the 2022 budget of $7.93 million.

At the meeting, mayor Silas White thanked staff for their efforts, noting that his interest in having the operating budget trimmed was to control the 2023 tax increase while being able to move forward with the plan to ensure the town is prepared for future policing costs.