Msunduzi valuations roll in turmoil

2019-08-12 14:00
City Hallâ??s Clock tower keeps ticking. The Msunduzi municipality has managed to keep ahead of the problem the pigeons keep dropping. Photo. Jonathan Burton8BIM

City Hallâ??s Clock tower keeps ticking. The Msunduzi municipality has managed to keep ahead of the problem the pigeons keep dropping. Photo. Jonathan Burton8BIM (File)

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More than 4 000 ratepayers have challenged the City’s new general valuation roll, which even the municipality has lodged an objection against.

This comes as some properties have apparently gone up by more than 60% since the release of the last valuation roll five years ago.

Msunduzi appointed a Johannesburg company, eValuations, to prepare the general valuation roll that came into effect at the beginning of the 2019/2020 financial year last month, and should be in place until June 2024.

The process has been marred by problems as some deadlines related to compliance with the Municipal Property Rates Act (MPRA) were not met by Msunduzi.

Some ratepayers also did not get the section 49 notices which were supposed to be sent out within 21 days of opening the roll for public inspection.

The letters were meant to tell them the new value of their properties so that they could decide if they wanted to challenge the valuation.

Some of the ratepayers with pending objections are not pleased that Msunduzi has already started charging them the new rates when eValuations has not given them its valuations.

Cameron Brisbane of Chase Valley said the objections had not been processed in time for statutory notification of the appeals process and issuing of the July utility accounts.

He is one of the property owners who commissioned independent valuations before challenging the City’s. The difference between the valuations for his property, which the City valued at R1,9 million and an independent valuer at R1,45 million, was R450 000.

“It is public knowledge that the City is in both financial and institutional distress, and the number of revaluation objections, of which I am aware through multiple sources, suggests there may possibly have been manipulation of the revaluation process in order to enhance revenue flows to the City,” he said.

He said if ratepayers with pending objections were to pay last year’s rates plus the annual tariff increase of six percent, they would face the wrath of consolidated billing as their payment would be prorata-ed against each item on their account.

“Our electricity would then be deemed to have fallen into arrears and we would face a hard disconnection. The consequences of the municipality’s dysfunctionality are too much to contemplate.”

A Northdale resident, who wished not to be named, agreed with Brisbane, saying the municipality was trying to rob the ratepayers to pay its creditors and salaries. He said he was shocked when the new valuation showed his rates would go up by 80%.

“My question is, will the municipality refund us for the months we’ve paid if our objections or appeals are successful? Because I’ve never met someone who has gotten their refund from Msunduzi,” he said.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said 4 379 objections had been received. “The lodging of an objection does not defer liability for payment of rates beyond the date determined for payment.”

She said adjustments would be made to the roll as a result of objection process. These may include the value of the property and the determination of amounts owed to either the ratepayer or the municipality.

“The supplementary valuation roll is published at least once a year, however during the course of the year, review rolls are conducted. The review rolls are triggered by any of the instances highlighted.”

Mafumbatha said the current valuation roll has 85 660 properties with a total value of more than R82 billion and they generate an annual revenue of just over R1 billion for the City.

Acting senor manager for valuation Odwa Langa said eValuation planned on dealing with the objections in batches of about 600 a month and they expect to have completed all of them in December. He said the City lodged its own objection against the roll because “there is a number of properties that we believed unreasonably increased”.

Acting City manager Nelisiwe Ngcobo has also asked internal audit to scrutinise the roll because the municipality was not happy with some of the new property values.

She said ratepayers could still lodge objections on the roll. Forms for objections can be obtained from the Professor Nyemebezi Centre on Church Street or on www.msunduzi.gov.za

• nokuthula.ntuli@witness.co.za

IN recent finance committee meetings the councillors called on the City management to sort out the problems with the roll, saying it did not make sense that some rates had increased by up to 100%.

ANC’s Sandile Dlamini cautioned the municipality about the legal repercussions of charging people new rates before the valuation process was finalised.

Mehmood Oumar added: “We can’t say to ratepayers, pay and we will sort it out in six months’ time. What we are doing to ratepayers is another form of oppression.

“Acting City manager [Nelisiwe Ngcobo], this matter has to be resolved, you can’t expect people like pensioners to pay a 62% increase.”

The DA’s Bongumusa Nhlabathi said that conducting valuations using aerial photographic imagery, as eValuations apparently did, was not the correct way.

He said the data collection process required site visits so that one could see all the features of the property.

“You can’t do an exercise of this magnitude on a desktop because if you do that you can only assume about the other parts of the property, then you end up with false information.

“There is no way that you can have a property value increase by more than 50% in five years, never, it can never happen,” he said.

Ngcobo said those who had pending objections must pay the 2018/19 rates plus 10% but this written arrangement is made with the City’s credit control unit, which is at the A.S. Chetty Building on Church Street. This will assist the ratepayers to prevent being disconnected.

“You cannot as a consumer sit back and say I will not pay, because the system has already been programmed in terms of the new tariffs,” she said.

Oumar said the municipality seemed hell-bent on frustrating the ratepayers by making them go to the finance department.

He said first they struggled to find parking outside the A.S. Chetty Building and then had to deal with staff who were “lethargic, lazy, abrupt and arrogant”.

“Ratepayers are keeping this City running so we need to fix this … We need to know exactly how much people should be paying,” he said.

He said businesses were leaving the city because they were tired of dealing with Msunduzi.

Administrator Sibusiso Sithole said it was very clear that the property values should have not risen by the percentages that were alleged by councillors.

He asked for the department of real estate and valuations to bring an updated report to the committee. This should also contain information about the window period for the objections.

“We do supplementary valuation rolls almost on a yearly basis, which means that people will still have an opportunity to say to us that their properties are undervalued — because there are such instances — or they are overvalued,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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