Policy flaw sees double in rates bill

2010-09-01 00:00

OWNERS of farm and agricultural land in Howick, who found that their rates bills had doubled, can breathe a sigh of relief — this is the wrong amount.

Their rates are to be re-calculated and the correct amount will be reflec­ted in their September accounts.

In addition, they will still qualify for the 10% discount if they pay the full amount. The deadline for full payments has been extended to the end of September.

uMngeni chief financial officer Bertus Van Der Merwe explained the blunder in a council meeting yesterday.

The blunder is a result of the hasty application of the Municipal Property Rates Act without changing the uMngeni Council’s rates policy accordingly.

To encourage agriculture the government has given generous rebates for land where farming is carried out.

Farmland with bona fide farming operations being carried out are rated at 25% of the residential rate.

To qualify for the rebate, farmers had to fill out forms at the municipality declaring that farming operations were carried out on the land, and many were not aware of the notice requesting them to do so.

In addition, the municipality had taken away the 50% rebate previously gran­ted to agricultural land owners, which resulted in the billing for the full amount without rebates.

Van der Merwe also explained that this does not mean owners of agricultural land will see their rates doubled when the council’s rates policy is changed, saying they had made provision for one type of use of agricultural land in the policy, whereas the Act presents seven to eight different categories. “Our policy will have to reflect these categories and grant the rebates accordingly.”

He said the changes will be made next year.

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