City Hall being starved of millions
– Deputy Mayor
The Mayor and City Council of Georgetown is being starved of more than $66M which it should have garnered from commercial operations in the city over the past three years.
And this state-of-affairs, according to Deputy Mayor, Robert Williams, is likely to continue until the new Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Valuation Roll is put into place.
Williams disclosed that following a survey carried out by the municipality in the areas bordered by Vlissengen Road, Water Street, North Road and Durban Street, it was discovered that a number of properties have been transformed to commercial operations.
“These properties are recorded in our data base as residences but are now being used as businesses, be it auto dealers, restaurants, salons, all sorts of things. So they are recorded by us as having to pay 40 percent of their assessed value but are in fact businesses that should be paying 250 percent and this has been happening over four to five years,” Williams divulged.
According to the Deputy Mayor, in such areas, the municipality should have been collecting some $18M per year but is only in receipt, if it is paid at all, of a mere $5M per year.
“When you assess on average going back three to four years, it is over $66M we should have garnered for commercial operations in these areas but we are only getting $24M under the base document we have which is residential,” Williams opined.
And according to him, this situation has been allowed to abound as the municipality has not been able to obtain the Valuation Roll under the Urban Development Programme, which he disclosed has been reportedly completed since 2003.
The Valuation Roll, Williams said is a complete assessment of all the properties in Georgetown and done in a scientific way by means of a capital mode as against rental mode, with digitised accommodation of information. Through this valuation, properties are identified both in terms of picture and statistics on what they are for the purpose of assessment, which the municipality has not been able to engage.
“You may ask the question, ‘How is it that we are able to survive?’ But we have been able to maximise our collections operation on existing properties in the city. Our collection rate as a result has gone up to 84 percent in the past couple of years which has helped. But how much can we carry on when all the roads still need to be repaired, canals need to re-dug, buildings, including City Hall and the Kitty Market need to be repaired? We cannot pursue these things because the revenue has not change.”
In fact, Williams explained that the municipality has been increasing its rates collection by battling to unearth the millions that have been escaping its grasp over the years. And in order to boost the municipality’s effort, Williams said that the introduction of the new Valuation Roll will be brought up for discussion with Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Kellawan Lall, when he meets with municipal officials this week.
And this move, the Deputy Mayor said, is crucial as even the revenue generated by the municipal markets cannot be utilised to fund the municipal operation.
He disclosed that the revenue from the markets have to be utilised in part to finance their maintenance. And this is particularly important for the Stabroek Market, Williams said, which some time ago warranted $240M maintenance work which was sourced through the Inter-American Development Bank Urban Development Programme, thus, the need to ensure that enough money is always available to keep it in an acceptable condition, Williams noted.
However, in the past monies generated at that very market were diverted to the municipal coffers to carry out municipal works, a practice which cannot be continued said Williams who added that “we have to be careful not to be penny wise and pound foolish.”