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Marine education centre, public market financials on track, says president

Both the Gibsons Community Building Society (GCBS) and Gibsons Marine Education Centre Society (GMECS) operated at a loss in 2019 but the societies remain on track with their financial goals, says GCBS board chair and president Pam Robertson.
The Gibsons Public Market entrance.

Both the Gibsons Community Building Society (GCBS) and Gibsons Marine Education Centre Society (GMECS) operated at a loss in 2019 but the societies remain on track with their financial goals, says GCBS board chair and president Pam Robertson.

A summary of the 2019 budget appeared in the organization’s 2020 report to the community, included in a Jan. 5 Town of Gibsons regular council agenda.

The Town has a 39 per cent stake in the property at 473 Gower Point Rd., out of which the Gibsons Public Market and Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre run, backed by the respective societies.

In 2019 the GCBS earned $621,930, with most revenue coming from leases, events, programming, market memberships and other forms of earned revenue ($294,647), followed by a combination of fundraising events and donations ($291,068).

Revenue was down from 2018, when the society made $657,013.

In an interview, Robertson accounted for the difference, explaining $90,000 in revenue for the building society was actually a “flow through” grant for the Gibsons Marine Education Centre, as it transitioned into a separate charitable entity.  

She also pointed to the fact that earned revenue was up from 2018 ($272,900), something the society is “very happy” about, she said. 

At $788,214, expenses for the society were down from 2018 ($874,033).

As for the GMECS, its revenue increased to $366,032 in 2019 from $323,381 in 2018, nearly doubling earnings from admissions and programs over 2018, to $103,572 from $57,063. It also earned more in donations and fundraising events.

“We were happy about the improvement,” said Robertson, adding they hope to break even for the first time in 2020. 

Expenses also increased in 2019 to $397,209 from 2018 ($367,000).

The mid-term goal for the marine education society is to cover 50 per cent of costs through earned revenue, with the rest covered by donations and grants. In 2019, approximately 25 per cent of costs were covered by earned revenue.

Because more rental revenue opportunities are available at the public market, the GCBS is striving to cover 75 per cent of its costs with earned revenue. In 2019, they hit about 60 per cent, said Robertson.  

The aim is to achieve those financial goals within five to seven years of when operations started in March 2017. “We’re encouraged,” said Robertson. “We’re feeling good about the progress we’re making, and we’re feeling really good about the support we’re getting from the community.”

Coast Reporter requested financials for 2020 but Robertson said year-end statements aren’t yet available.

She described 2020 as a “challenging year” because of the pandemic, forcing reliance on government support, such as the federal wage subsidy and loan program.

“We initially laid staff off when this first hit because it was such a shock, and because of these programs we were able to bring our staff back, and they’re critical to our work in the community.”

That support, alongside a successful fundraising gala and record-breaking year-end giving campaign means the goal for 2020 is to break even.

In their letter to the Town of Gibsons, the board and executive director said the pandemic “presented significant challenges requiring flexibility, creativity and hard work in order to advance our mission while meeting our financial goals.”

They also thanked the Town for renewing its support for the Healthy Harbour project.

Healthy Harbours

At a regular council meeting Dec. 15, marine education centre development and programs director Graham Starsage reported to council on behalf of the centre, providing a series of recommendations based on an assessment of eelgrass ecosystems in the marine nearshore of Armours Beach and survey of eelgrass beds at the beach and Gibsons Harbour breakwater.

It found a “vibrant and healthy eelgrass habitat” in the east Armours Beach region, but more debris was found closer to the Gibsons Landing marine facility.

The report recommended installing a series of conservation signage buoys, prohibiting motorized vessel use inside the conservation areas “unless prior approval by the Town of Gibsons is obtained,” and prohibiting permanent mooring and temporary anchoring in the conservation areas within the Town of Gibsons’ Recreational Water Lease.

It also provided options for conservation areas outside the breakwater and at Armours Beach.

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