(by Laura Houle)
The Town of Gibsons collected more than $700,000 in donations from the community in 2016 and transferred the funds to the Gibsons Community Building Society, according to Ian Poole, the Town of Gibsons’ director of finance. The Building Society operates the Public Market.
The Town of Gibsons, which owns a 39 per cent share of the market property, stepped up to help the Building Society by issuing tax receipts to donors for a total of $210,273.
One reason the Town helped out: only registered charities have the ability to issue tax receipts for gifts and donations. Canadian municipalities are considered registered charities according to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) guidelines.
According to the CRA’s list of charities, the Building Society is not a registered charity.
A Gibsons resident submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Town of Gibsons in February 2017 to discover the amount of donations to the Building Society for which the Town had issued tax receipts in 2016.
The town supplied a list of 51 tax receipts for a total of $210,273 in 2016. The names of 46 individual donors were blacked out. Section 22(1) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires a public body to refuse to disclose personal information if the disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy.
Corporate donors were Bull Housser and Tupper LLP in Vancouver ($15,000), Ivan G. Thompson Ltd. ($1,000), Taryn Holdings Ltd. ($25,000), Sea to Sky Meeting Management Inc. ($1,000), and Spiegelman and Company ($500).
Town staff calls the donations “flow-through” funds because they were received as revenue and then transferred to the Building Society.
The Town of Gibsons was not the only entity issuing tax receipts for donations to the market in 2016. The Sunshine Coast Community Foundation did so as well. The foundation did not contribute the funds directly to the Building Society; it donated them to the Town of Gibsons in the form of a grant. The town then transferred the money to the Building Society.
Wendy Francis, executive director for the foundation, said that in 2016, the grant to the town was just over $345,000.
Why did the foundation not give the money directly to the Building Society? Francis explained that the Canada Revenue Agency has determined that foundations are only able to give grants to qualified donees. These qualified donees are either charities or other entities that the CRA has classified as qualified donees.
Municipalities are qualified donees, Francis said. “We couldn’t grant to the market or the Building Society which runs the market because they’re not qualified. We gave a grant to the town and it could use that money how it wished to.”
“This is how the foundation manages grants to non-profits that are not qualified donees. The organizations must have a sponsor which is a qualified donee and the funds flow through that entity, with or without a fee levied on the recipient,” added Sandra Cunningham, former executive director for the foundation.
According to Francis, some people also donated money to CanadaHelps.org, which gave those people tax receipts as well. CanadaHelps.org then gave the money to the foundation, and the foundation donated another $58,000 to the town in 2016.
In total, the foundation granted $403,000 to the town in 2016, Francis said. The town received the money, she said, and passed it to the Building Society, which operates the market.
In 2016, the town gave $706,779.30 in flow-through funds to the Building Society (the Public Market). According to Wendy Francis, $403,000 came from the foundation. However, Ian Poole gave a number of $510,406.30 from the foundation.
When The Coast Clarion inquired, both the town and the foundation stuck to their numbers.
“All I can speak to is the numbers that I have, which shows that we got $510,406.30 from the SCCF in 2016,” Poole said.
“I can’t explain why the figures you received from the town are different from those of the foundation,” Francis said. “We each keep our own sets of books and have our own accounting practices: there may be differences in timing between when cheques were written, cashed and recorded.”
The tax receipts to the 46 individual donors and five corporate donors mentioned above are in the amount of $210,273. The town gave $706,779.30 to the market. If $403,000 came from the foundation, the difference is $90,506.30.
If the foundation gave $510,406.30, as Ian Poole said, the total of donations would be $720.679.30. In that case, the difference is $13,900.
2016 was not the first year the town issued tax receipts for the Public Market.
In 2013, the town collected $275,000 in donations from the community and issued tax receipts to donors. However, those funds were not flow-through funds. The town used them to purchase a 37.93 per cent equity interest in the market property at 473 Gower Point Road.
If the town was able to use donations from the community to purchase an equity interest in the market property in 2013, why couldn’t the town do the same in 2016?
“The first time we contributed $275,000, that gave us a 38 per cent interest in the equity,” Poole explained. “But in [February] 2016 when we made the second equity contribution, the market board had reevaluated the appraised value of the building because it was undergoing major renovations. At the same time our equity increased in terms of investment dollars, the value of the property increased. The result was that our equity interest remained about the same; it increased by about 1 per cent.”
The second equity contribution that Poole referred to occurred in February 2016, when the town invested $275,000 from the Parks Acquisition Reserve Fund in the market and forgave $110,000 in required frontage work at the market site.
Colliers International Realty Advisors Inc. found that the market building, when completed, would be worth $2,750,000. This amount formed the basis for the calculation of the Town’s portion of the equity in the property, and it is the reason that the donations in 2016 did not appreciably increase its equity interest.
The Coast Clarion asked Nancy Grenier, communications and marketing director for the Gibsons Community Building Society, about the fundraising procedure and the society’s application for charitable status. The Society declined to comment at this time.