Community Hall Board asking members if there is support to apply to RDN for tax-based funding

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 25 2017

The Board of the Gabriola Island Community Hall Association (GICHA) is asking its membership as to whether it should seek tax-based financial aid from the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) for the hall.

A survey launched on the GICHA website (www.gabriolacommunityhall.com) explains that the Board “is seeking your input to our suggestion that we add a modest amount to our property taxes in order to help maintain and improve our community hall.”

Board members Joyce Babula and Richard Strachan have said no specific amount for the request to the RDN has been formally decided on.

The survey on the Commynity Hall web site states the GICHA Board is seeking $48,000.

The aim, from the wording on the survey, is to have a referendum question from the RDN in place to be included as part of the next local government elections which will be on October 20, 2018.

In a press statement, the Board said, “The hall was first built in 1917, but burned down and was rebuilt 35 years ago. Current rental and fundraising income covers operating costs but is insufficient to cover the larger maintenance costs expected from the aging structure. 

“Nor can this income meet the costs of additional storage and other development needs. 

“The volunteer Board of the hall is proposing that we all contribute a few cents each week through our property taxes in order to fund major maintenance and development costs.”

According to the FAQs sheet included with the survey, the new funds will be used for:

• Large maintenance items: resurfacing the main roof, updating electrics, improving acoustics, et cetera - items not covered by GICHA’s current income.

• Accumulating a development fund to finance future expansion - the Board is anticipating that the community will be upgrading the hall to add storage space, emergency preparedness, activity space, performance space, et cetera.

• Raising funds: the Board regularly applies for grants for projects, such as the new mural, upstairs handicap washroom, metal roof repairs, et cetera. However, granting agencies typically demand matching funds and the present income limits GICHA’s ability to apply.

As to why the Board would not want to raise rents, the Board has explained on the survey that it would need “to more than triple our rental rates if we sought to raise these funds from our renters. The GICHA volunteer Board prefers to continue the policy of low rental rates that has made the hall accessible to all for the last 100 years.

“We estimate that nearly every local visits the hall at least once per year for some event or activity. We will all benefit from signing this petition and voting to fund the hall in a referendum.”

Howard Houle, Regional Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge and DeCourcy), said he had been approached by members of the Community Hall Board.

He explained his expectation was for GICHA (and other organizations seeking financial aid) to go through the same processes that previous organizations like the GERTIE bus and Gabriola Museum have gone through. Houle said he has requested that GICHA get a physical petition signed by 800 Area B taxpayers, to show there is community support behind funding the community hall.

“I am willing to let them go through the process other organizations, such as the museum, have gone through before, which is to show me there is community support for their request.

“I want to see a physical signature on actual paper. The reason for that is the people being asked to sign can then ask the people who are manning the table whatever questions or voice concerns they might have.”

Houle said there is no other community hall in the RDN receiving tax monies for regular operations or maintenance that he is aware of.