Kokstad residents up in arms as rates increased

2013-06-10 00:00

BUSINESSES, farmers and ratepayers in Kokstad are up in arms over a rates increase they claim is unreasonable and will “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”.

The Greater Kokstad Municipality (GKM) passed its budget recently and ratepayers were shocked to learn they will have to cough up an extra 17% in rates for business and residential properties and 13% for agricultural properties. This was coupled with a seven percent increase in refuse and electricity charges. The community is set to protest against this on June 19. They will be handing in a letter of objection to the municipality.

Cathy Robinson, public relations officer for the Kokstad Chamber of Business (KCB), said the situation was extremely frustrating as the chamber and farmers’ associations had done their best to engage with the municipality during the budget preparation process and had stressed how unaffordable and unsustainable the rates increases were. “The municipality insisted that the increase in rates was only seven percent, but they neglected to inform the public that together with the decrease in rebates, the increases actually equate to 17% and 13%,” she said.

Following the release of the latest valuation roll, property values increased and residents were faced with higher rates.

Robinson said when the valuation rolls were revised, this gave the municipality an increase in the rates income from R53 million to R93 million — a 75% increase. Now, with the latest increases, the municipality was anticipating a rates income of R109 million.

“We have also been informed that there is still R39 million worth of outstanding rates in the current financial year. If people are not paying now, how are they going to be expected to pay the increased amounts?”

The KCB, in its submissions to the municipality, compared other similar-sized municipalities like Ingwe, uMzimkhulu, Underberg and Matatiele, which kept their increases close to the rate of inflation.

In the end, all the Greater Kokstad Municipality is doing is “killing the goose that lays the golden egg”, Robinson said.

KZN MEC for Finance Ina Cronjé said that the head of municipal finances in her office, Farhad Cassimjees, was working with the municipality on the matter.

Spokesperson for the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Lennox Mabaso, said that they would prefer communities “engaging in dialogue” over problems, rather than embarking on protest action. Mabaso said municipalities were in a difficult position as they had to raise revenue in order to deliver services, but at the same time MEC Nomusa Dube had warned municipalities that increases had to be sustainable.

Municipal manager Felix Nxumalo was contacted for comment but he had not got back to The Witness by the time of publication.

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