On February 9, 2022, the Town learned that on May 11, 2021, Census Day, its population count was 4,758. This was up by 3.3% over the 4,605 people counted during the 2016 Census, but still below the 5,000-person threshold which would have triggered the need for the Town to begin paying 70% of its policing costs (up from 30%.)
Mayor Beamish commented, “We were pleasantly surprised to learn today that our population has not yet officially hit 5,000. That means we have five more years to prepare for a large increase in our annual policing costs and to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition to a different policing model. It also means we can shift our focus slightly in the short term to help the RCMP address more immediate local issues such as the recruitment of a new Sunshine Coast detachment commander and increased service to our community.”
Under the BC Police Act, the provincial government must provide policing and law enforcement services to municipalities under the 5,000 population threshold. Those municipalities pay 30% of the total policing costs.
Once the municipality exceeds 5,000 people, it must pay 70% of its policing costs and provide policing and law enforcement by means of one of the following:
History: Police Services Select Committee – 2019
In anticipation of reaching the 5,000 population threshold at the 2021 Census, the Town of Gibsons’ Council established a Police Services Select (PSS) Committee in February 2019.
The purpose and scope of the PSS Committee was to provide an overview of the history of police services in Gibsons, identify issues and actions to improve the level of policing services in Gibsons, and discuss options for policing the Town of Gibsons.
On December 17, 2019, Council received the report titled “Police Services Select Committee Final Report”.
In the report, the committee recommends that the Town opt for an agreement for RCMP policing, but with a contract that spells out specific service levels.
To date, all municipalities which have crossed the 5,000 population threshold have chosen the RCMP to provide their municipal policing services.
Currently, Gibsons is covered as part of the RCMP’s rural service contract with the Province. Under that model, ratepayers in Gibsons pay 30% of the community’s policing costs, or about $403,000 in policing taxes.
Under the 70% cost-sharing model, the Town will need to raise between $739,978.40 and $1,001,221.20 in new taxation, depending on the number of dedicated officers for Gibsons.
History: Preparing for A New Policing Model – 2020 – 2021
Q1 2020 – Based on the report received by Council in December 2019 (see section above), a 1% increase in taxation was proposed in the 2020 budget, with the resulting money being used to establish a Police Services Reserve Fund. However, due to the potential negative financial impacts of COVID-19 on Town citizens, Council ultimately decided not to proceed with this rate hike.
Q4 2020 – A letter was received from the Executive Director of the Policing and Service Branch (PSB), confirming that if Gibsons should exceed 5,000 population in the 2021 Canada Census, the transition to municipal policing responsibility would be effective April 1, 2022. To assist with this process, PSB staff initiated development of a Policing Information Package for the Town that includes information about the Town’s current police services, highlights key components of RCMP Agreements, identifies a minimum resource level for the Town and estimated costs for the provision of RCMP municipal services, post-transition.
Q1 2021 – Council contemplated how best to begin preparing for an estimated $700,000 to $1 million annual increase in the Town’s policing costs, which is required by the Province of BC once we reach a population of 5,000 people. A proposal to include a dedicated 5% police services tax increase in 2021, a dedicated 15% police services tax increase in 2022 and a dedicated 10.3% police services tax increase in 2022 (in addition to any other required annual municipal tax increases) was considered. Adopting this plan would have enabled the Town to establish a police reserve fund ahead of the anticipated 2022 rise in costs. Read the related 2021-03-09 staff report here.
Q2 2021 – During the 2021 budget process, Council approved a 7% annual increase in the Town of Gibsons’ municipal tax. This comprised a 2% general increase and a 5% dedicated Police Services Tax.
The 5% increase related to the Police Services Tax ($165,000) was placed in reserve, and will be used to mitigate an expected increase of $700,000 to $1 million in Gibsons’ annual policing costs, which will be triggered by the Province of BC when the Town’s population officially reaches 5,000 people.
February 9, 2022 – while it was expected that the 2021 Canada Census would find that at least 5,000 people were residents of the Town of Gibsons on Census Day, the actual count was 4,758. Accordingly, the Town now has at least five more years (until the next Census count) to prepare for a new policing model and significantly increased policing costs.