Howick west: Rates forum ready to declare dispute by paying 2010 rates plus 7%

2011-07-11 00:00

WHILE properties of Howick residents have been valued up to 100% higher than in previous for rates purposes, those of many senior municipal staff have apparently declined in value.

There were gasps at a packed meeting called by the uMngeni Rates Forum in Howick West yesterday when Democratic Alliance councillor Tim Lindsay-White showed that the senior officials will not be charged the same rate of increases as residents.

He said: “The valuation of the new mayor’s house has not increased at all. Her rates will not go up; neither will that of chief financial officer Bertus van der Merwe.”

Lindsay-White showed that in the latest valuations carried out by ­e-Valuations the rates to be paid by the general manager for development and planning will decrease by 10%; the former municipal manager’s by 28%; those of the general manager for technical services by 29%; and those of the general manager for community services 40%.

Lindsay-White said the house of the managing director of eValuations has been featured twice on the television programme Top Billing.

One of his own team valued the house at around R4 million, and it later emerged that he has a R10 million bond on his property. The DA councillor said he mentioned this to show that it is imperative to have an audit of the valuation roll in the face of extreme differences in rates charges.

An audit of the roll was one of the key demands at the meeting as the forum voted to declare a dispute with the town’s municipality and demand:

• An independent audit of the valuation roll

• The provincial treasury to audit the rates randage declared by the municipality

• Council to address the issue of having senior councillors of good standing and character

• Proper financial controls and oversight at the municipality

• The municipality’s standing committee for public accounts to be chaired by a competent person from the opposition, in terms of good governance practice and as is done in Parliament

If these demands are not met by July 19, the forum will declare a dispute by paying the 2010 rates plus seven percent. The forum chairperson, Mano Naidoo, emphasised that residents must pay rates and that the declaration of a dispute would not be an excuse to avoid paying rates as there is no intention to bring the municipality to its knees.

He added, however, that he is confident the forum will find a way forward through dialogue with the new mayor, Mbali Myeni, who showed her willingness to engage with the forum. Myeni told the meeting that she has already scheduled a meeting with the MEC for Co-operative Governance on whether, according to legislation, it would be possible to carry out such an audit.

Shocked residents were presented with research carried out by the forum, which showed that 60% of uMngeni ratepayers are pensioners with a fixed income while the average income for homeowners in the sprawling Howick West sector is R3 000 a month.

In terms of the latest valuation roll, residents found that their houses on average had their valuations increased by 106%. The research showed that residents may have to pay increases of R2 000 and upwards, an amount the forum said is unaffordable and unsustainable.

There was some dissent over whether a representative from eValuations should be allowed to speak. He was allowed a few minutes in which he said his company did not value individual properties but used a mass-based approach involving a mathematical and computational model.

Other demands raised at the meeting were for the removal of the chief financial officer, with residents citing the evidence that emerged from the commission of inquiry into the municipality that his department is in a shambles.

Residents also don’t want debt collection outsourced, saying in-house collections would save the municipality money.

They expressed their gratitude to the mayor for making herself available for the meeting and for her open-door approach.

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