Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

A funding increase for GERTIE has been approved by the Regional District of Nanaimo board.

A motion by Electoral Area B Director Vanessa Craig, that funding for the Gabriola Community Bus Foundation be increased from $ 180,341 to $204,000 in 2024 – an increase of $23,659 – along with continuation of the 2 per cent cost of living increase in subsequent years, unanimously passed at the Dec. 12 board meeting.

The GERTIE operator requested $26,500 to cover a loss of revenue from charter service provided to People for a Healthy Community’s (PHC) Stepping Up Stepping Out seniors program as well as an increase to the maintenance budget “to more accurately reflect the cost of keeping our buses on the road,” GCBF chair Steve Earle wrote to the RDN board as part of the organization’s annual presentation.

“We have had to make additional service cuts in 2023 in order to balance the budget, and while that has had a negative impact on our overall ridership and our riders, the cuts were made strategically and our riders per hour statistics have improved significantly over last year,” the letter says.

GCBF’s report to the RDN board said PHC’s charters have historically made up 10 per cent of GERTIE’s total operating income. The bus operator hopes to build up other types of charters to recover the loss, which would involve restoring a currently out-of-commission third bus. GCBF says it is working to replace two of its buses within two years. Vehicle maintenance “has been significantly underfunded since GERTIE’s inception,” the report says.

The current agreement for the RDN to collect taxes from Area B to fund GERTIE ends in 2026 after the initial five-year agreement was extended in 2021. An agreement has been in place since 2016 following a referendum on a transportation contribution service for Electoral Area B. The referendum supported annually requisitioning up to a maximum of the greater of $250,000 or $0.25 per $1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements to pay for the service.

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