eThekwini rates skyrocket

2014-05-30 00:00

RATEPAYERS will have to dig deeper into their pockets when the eThekwini municipality implements its tariff increases in July.

The cost of electricity will increase by 5,5% (2013/2014) and 7,79% (2014/2015); water 9,4% and 9,9%; refuse removal 6,9% and 7,9% and sanitation 6,9% and 7,0%.

The city, in its final budget document, which was tabled at a special sitting near Pinetown yesterday, said the increases were a result of the knock-on effects of Eskom and Umgeni Water hikes.

“Given that these tariff increases are determined by external bodies, the impacts they have on the municipality’s tariffs are largely outside the control of the city,” the document said.

These increases were approved along with the metro’s R30,1 billion operating budget and R5,66 billion capital budget.

Tabling the R35,8 billion budget for 2014/15, mayor James Nxumalo said measures were in place to address water loss, electricity theft and land invasion.

The municipality expects to lose R620 million in water through leakages and illegal connections and R400 million in electricity losses.

Nxumalo said local plumbers would be employed to detect and fix some of the leaks and teach residents about the need to report leaks and illegal connections. “In addition, a water loss summit is being planned to engage the public on ways of dealing with this worrying challenge. An amount of R65 million has been made available for this purpose,” he said.

Nxumalo also said: “We are doing everything in our power to curb this.”

He also announced R3,1 billion for a social package aimed to assist poor families.

Properties valued at less than R185 000 will be exempt from paying rates. Those valued above R185 000 will not be charged rates for the first R120 000.

The city has also increased the rates rebate for pensioners, child-headed families and disability grant beneficiaries from R259 to R278 a month.

Nxumalo said the drawing up of the budget had responded to the need to increase the pace of service delivery, grow the economy and create jobs.

He said R40 million was allocated for agriculture projects, R26,5 million for soup kitchens, and R38,5 million for skills development and job creation projects as a response to youth unemployment, among others.

Major capital projects include the following:

• R3,7 billion for infrastructure backlogs;

• R2,3 billion for low-cost houses;

• R3,1 billion for the eThekwini Transport Authority;

• R762,9 million for electricity infrastructure,

• R185 million for water loss intervention;

• R1,3 billion for roads upgrades;

• R1,5 billion for wastewater treatment upgrades;

• R160 million for solid waste fleet replacements; and

• R348 million for a new central library.

Nxumalo said the city was developing a land strategy to unlock prime industrial land and provide infrastructure for manufacturing activity.

He also said the rates policy would be amended to suit investment incentives that target specific sectors in regions where the metro wanted to encourage development. “The incentives will be based on the investment value, the number of jobs and type of skills training offered.”

The city was finalising the establishment of a planning commission to identify constraints to investment in the region, he added.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango urged the city to expand its tax base, create an environment condusive to investors to create jobs and also ensure those who use services and could afford them to contribute to the rates base.

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