The “Team Sunshine Coast” approach was used by Gibsons on its initial online 2021 budget public engagement session. Town council and staff tapped into Zoom meeting expertise developed by their counterparts in Sechelt to host an interactive session that was attended virtually by about 30 people on March 23.
With advice from frequent Zoom user Mayor Siegers of Sechelt and the staff that assist her, Gibsons hosted a 1.5-hour event that featured virtual breakout rooms. This allowed those involved to discuss specific areas of interest, including capital, Town operations, and general government. Highlights from breakout room discussions were shared with the larger group. That allowed individuals to comment on any or all of the discussion topics.
The level of attendance at the Gibsons exercise was proportionally one of this year’s highest for budget idea-sharing events conducted by local government. Mayor Bill Beamish said that council would be considering input received and hosting a second session in mid to late April. By that point, council is slated to have drafts of the Town’s 2021 property tax bylaw and its spending plans for operations, utility services, and capital projects.
In discussion of all areas, concerns related to increased spending and property tax rates were expressed. Community member Des Delaney put forward the suggestion that the Town look at reducing operational and project budgets by five percent. Delaney said that he had worked in the private sector where such an approach was applied. He commented that it led to creativity on the part of those in charge, as they were challenged to look for savings, no matter how small, in everything they did.
Jodie Schick, area resident and Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast (TraC) member said he would like to see the Town engage more on updating and implementing its Active Transportation Plan. Schick expressed the view that Gibsons needs a plan that supports alternatives to the use of single-occupancy vehicles, especially along its section of Highway 101. He also suggested that the Town put more effort into projects that would be eligible for grant funding so that costs to local taxpayers are reduced.
Inquiries related to policing costs, management of invasive species, addressing the impacts of climate change, and the donation flow-through service provided to the Gibsons Public Market were addressed. The video recording of the session, along with other information on Gibsons’ 2021 budget process, can be viewed online at https://gibsons.ca/