uMngeni rates storm

2011-01-28 00:00

DRAWING attention to the gross undervaluation of several properties in the affluent areas of Howick and Hilton has brought Democratic Alliance councillor Tim Lindsay-White threats, abusive phone calls and e-mails.

The DA councillor is in the property field and several clients have threatened to take away their business.

Work carried out by Lindsay-White, assisted by Dr Rob McLaren of the Concerned Ratepayers’ Group (CRG), revealed the extent of undervaluations in the town and how this has affected the municipality’s rates income.

uMngeni Municipality currently faces severe cash flow and solvency problems and is being guided by the provincial treasury.

In a report to Finance MEC Ina Cronjé, the DA caucus said the financial crisis at the municipality could be averted if undervaluations on the rates valuation roll were sorted out.

According to the report, an estimated R10 million per annum can be added to the rates base — equivalent to almost 25% of the annual rates received. The research also revealed a number of properties that were not on the valuation roll and whose owners are not paying rates.

As a result of the submission, work began on adjusting the valuation roll, leaving some residents disgruntled.

Lindsay-White said some 600 ratepayers were the subject of objections two years ago. The rates objections were not dealt with at the time and now that they are being processed some people face the possibility of having to pay outstanding rates going back two years.

“I am a ward councillor and what we found when the new Rates Act was introduced was that people were quick to object if their property was overvalued, but never came forward if they were undervalued. However, disgruntled neighbours started asking, ‘But I have a smaller property compared to my neighbour, so why is my place valued more?’

“The CRG began collecting objections on undervaluations and brought them to me as ward councillor. There were no clear processes of submission so I submitted them on their behalf,” he said.

According to Lindsay-White, uMngeni was one of the first municipalities to introduce the Property Rates Act. He believes the problem of undervaluations is going to come up at other municipalities as well.

“I’m the messenger and I am being attacked,” said Lindsay-White.

However, he said he has no regrets.

The work also uncovered the fact that some large estates such as Garlington near Hilton and Gowrie at Nottingham Road were undervalued or not valued at all.

His work led him to focus on the relationship between the municipality and law firm Venn, Nemeth and Hart, which does work for the municipality. This was the subject of a submission he made to the commission of inquiry into the affairs of uMngeni Municipality.

The commission resumes its sitting today when Lindsay-White will be cross-examined by legal representatives of the law firm.



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