Council to probe rates debacle following criticism over high bills

Mayor, Richard Mbatha

Mayor Richard Mbatha has asked the municipality’s Chief Financial Officer and Councillors to meet this week to urgently come up with a solution to the thorny issue of hefty rates increases since July 1.
Speaker, Bongiwe Mbatha, said at Friday’s Council meeting that her office had received many complaints from residents regarding increases in rates. She remarked that ‘people even stop me in the shops and at the doctors to complain that their rates have gone up’.
“We did have a workshop to discuss the issue some weeks ago. Unfortunately, not all Councillors were there but I did tender apologies for Councillor Anthon Raubenheimer who was on leave at the time. He was the one who requested the workshop.”
Bongani Mdletshe, Chief Financial Officer, explained to Councillors how all municipalities are compelled to complete new evaluations of all properties every five years.

He said property owners had been given a chance to object to the valuations.

“Most property owners have said they are happy with the valuations of their properties but not with the rates they are now being charged. While we did bring down the tariff by 1%, because the value of properties had gone up, the rates went up. If we look at reducing the formula (currently 3.97 cents in the Rand for commercial properties), this will impact on our approved budget and on our expenditure.” He said property owners had been given a chance to object to the valuations.
Councillor Thulani Mahaye said he was concerned that those in RDP houses were now paying over R300 a month for rates, up from R180. He also said he too had received many complaints from business owners and singled out one example where rates had gone up by 116%.
Councillor Anthon Raubenheimer said he had received a ‘file of complaints’ over hefty rates increases – with one business owner now paying R33 000 a month, up from R11 000. “Yes, property owners are happy with their valuations so we will have to re-look at the formula.”

More on the rates saga:

Rates hike leave residents out of pocket and not happy |

LETTER – Municipal assessment rates-some questions and comments

How can you justify a 351,9% rates increase? |

 

He also remarked on several anomalies where a vacant plot in Strathmore Park valued at R250 000 attracted rates of R1 700 a month, while an adjacent three-bedroom house, valued at R650 000 was charged R530 rates a month. “So it won’t suit the municipality for an investor to build on the vacant lot as they will be a reduction in rates,” he told the house.
He added objections to the valuations closed on April 1 which was well before the owners were aware that the rates formula would impact so heavily on their bills.
He suggested that the officials do a sample survey of 20 residential, 20 industrial, 20 agricultural and 20 commercial properties to check on how the formula had affected the rates of each of these properties since July 1.
After much debate, Mayor Mbatha said it was in the best interests of the town for the financial department officials and Councillors to convene to thrash out the conundrum and come up with an amicable solution.

  AUTHOR
T Worley

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