Big reprieve for ratepayers

2008-03-25 00:00

City ratepayers will get a year’s reprieve from having to pay rates on the market values of their properties, under the new Municipal Properties Rates Act.

Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo announced yesterday that the council will be using the old property valuation roll and not the latest one based on market values.

The controversial new roll has been described as flawed. It gave rise to the Msunduzi Rates Forum (MRF) in the northern suburbs, where residents believed that properties in the area had been generally over-valued.

Hlatshwayo said the decision to use the old valuation roll was taken at a finance committee meeting earlier in the day.

“Our decision was based on our state of readiness in finalising the draft budget. We can’t wait until October 31 and the process of sorting through the objections,” she said.

She added that, at this stage, it is difficult to judge the merits of a new valuation roll as the objection process is not over. However, using the old valuation roll, means the municipality will have time to deal with everybody’s objections and fine-tune the new roll.

The mayor announced the reprieve while receiving the first batch of objection forms from the MRF, who claimed to have processed 5 000 objections to date. The forum’s vice-chairman Victor Pillay told The Witness that they continue to be inundated with queries from the public.

Their intention in visiting city hall and personally handing over a batch of objections to the mayor was to ask for an extension of the objection period. They had also planned to call on council to delay the use of the new valuation roll until July 2009.

Their request was eclipsed by the mayor’s announcement.

National government had given municipalities four years, until 2009, to implement the New Property Rates Act. Hlatshwayo said that Msunduzi will be officially applying to the MEC for Local Government, Mike Mabuyakhulu, to delay the process by a year.

Hlatshwayo urged residents who are dissatisfied with their valuations to lodge their objections by March 31.

“We are happy to receive your objections. The more they are submitted means that we will come up with a better roll for next year.”

She thanked the ward councillors for their tireless work in assisting people with their objections and said that with the pressure taken off, the municipality can now spend more time preparing and educating communities about the Property Rates Act.

Pillay welcomed the mayor’s announcement, saying the reprieve offered ratepayers and the municipality the opportunity to work together to ensure that there is a greater level of concord around the implementation of the new rating system.

He said the Forum remained unhappy that the company who had the contract to carry out the new valuations were being both player and referee in the rates process. They compiled the roll and now they will also be involved in reviewing the rates objection forms.

“Given the large numbers of anomalies picked up to date, the MRF believes that an independent valuation company or officials of the Msunduzi Municipality should oversee the rates objection process prior to the valuations appeals board stage.”

Pillay added that the MRF research team was close to completing an independent audit of the new valuation roll and will make its findings available to the public shortly.

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