Ratepayers to feel hike pinches

2015-04-30 06:00

MSUNDUZI ratepayers could be hit with stiff increases in water and ­electricity tariffs if the proposed ­municipal budget for the next ­financial year is approved.

The budget shows electricity will increase by 12,28%, but could go up even more if the energy regulator, ­Nersa, grants Eskom the further ­increases it has asked for.

The regulator is looking over an application from Eskom to ­increase tariffs from its initial 12% to 14,4%.

Water tariffs are set to rise by 8,2%.

Last year, electricity increased by 7,39%, water by 8,7%, and sanitation and refuse by 5,6%.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said these increases were out of the municipality’s control as they were imposed by Eskom and Umgeni ­Water, respectively.

Senior municipal officials and members of the Executive Committee (Exco) recently held a two-day ­meeting to finalise the budget, which comes into effect in July.

“Ratepayers will not be getting any shock increases on their tariffs. The increases have been kept in line with inflation,” he said.

The proposed budget shows that the tariff increases will be around 5,8% for all services, with the exception of electricity and water.

Rates will increase by six percent, electricity by 12,28%, water by 8,2%, sanitation by 5,8%, refuse by 5,8% and others, including traffic fines, by 5,8%.

Political parties and non-governmental organisations commenting on the draft budget raised concerns about the Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCBs) tariff charges.

DA councillor Dave Ryder said they have raised complaints about the MCB charges and asked that they be removed, or not increased this year.

Mervyn Abrahams of the NGO ­Pacsa said they were also against the MCB charge.

“We have called on the municipality to collapse the charge ­into the electricity price for high end users. They will still get that revenue. We know it is a form of tax for the ­municipality.”

He said it was a concern that the draft did not make provisions for free electricity for the poor.

“They say they cannot give free electricity to people on prepaid meters, but we know ­uMngeni Municipality does it, so it is technically possible.”

Nkosi made it clear that the MCB charge was here to stay for the ­foreseeable future.

He said they had made submissions to Nersa on the MCB charges which were accepted.

The draft budget shows that the municipality will generate revenue of about R1,9 billion from electricity - last year it made R1,7 billion.

Msunduzi is anticipating making a loss on water, expecting to collect about R550 million for water bought for R587 million, and to earn as much as R784 million in property rates ­income.

The municipality also budgeted about R60 million to fill critical ­positions, and has set aside R601 million for the development of ­infrastructure. Road and storm water infrastructure have received the ­highest allocations of R330,5 million. Electricity infrastructure will receive R133 million, while water and sanitation will receive R119,9 million.

There were concerns that the ­budget for repairs and maintenance - about R237 million last year - had been revised down to R200 million for the next financial year.

Ryder said they were happy with most aspects of the budget.

The IFP was unable to comment by the time of going to press.

Peter Green, of the Scottsville ­Ratepayers’ Association, criticised the public participation process for the budget, saying the meetings were ­limited and there was no real intention of including residents’ demands in the budget.

He said the money collected through rates should be invested in improving the city.

Melanie Veness, the CEO of the ­Pietermaritzburg Chamber of ­Business, said the proposed increases seem reasonable in the context of costs and the need to repair ageing ­infrastructure

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