N/A Town Council to take legal action against tax defaulters
By Leon Suseran
The New Amsterdam Mayor & Town Council is operating on a very tight budget and tardy tax payers are adding to the Council’s woes. This is according to Town Treasurer, Ms. Sharon Anderson. Anderson revealed that just 61 per cent of taxes due, was collected in 2011 and last year. There are still 12 million dollars in arrears taxes still to be collected. This, she said, is severely hampering developmental works around the town. Taxes for the town have not been raised since 1997, she announced.
Anderson, in responding to allegations of financial mismanagement by some political leaders in the Region, said that the only thing the council is guilty of “is not letting the people in the town know about the problems we are facing with the collection of taxes”. She noted that every cent of the monies spent by the council can be accounted for. “There is no mismanagement in this council because our budget is a very tight budget”. She added that last week a resident came in and paid a backlog of thirty- plus years in taxes to the council. She said that $49,084 was paid for 34 years of taxes, “so you can just imagine how small the taxes were…if we have empty lands in this town is $780 per year and these same lands, you have persons from other streets, go and dump garbage in these lands”.
Anderson said that the $780 in annual taxes for those lands cannot compensate for the council having to find fuel, labourers and cleaning every month. “It is one thing we keep doing over and over in this town and I think it is time the residents look out for the council just like how they want the council look out for them”.
She said that the council is being hampered by tardy taxpayers. “We went so far as to tell the taxpayers to pay whatever they can afford…they came in, some of them, and some of them every month they would come and pay, but some of them, we have to take legal action”. The council has hired its own Legal Adviser, Mr. Motie Singh, but Anderson announced that when letters are delivered, some residents refuse to sign for the registered mail.
“When they received the envelope, they realise it was a legal action and they refused to collect it from the postal workers…the taxpayers do not want to honour the obligation to the council and those same persons would turn back and say the council is not doing anything and I always say, you render to Caesar what is good for him”. She made a special appeal to residents, especially to those not paying up taxes to honour their obligations. She urged those having difficulty paying their taxes to visit the council and draft up a contract and pay in small amounts, whatever they can afford.
“We cannot get this town cleaned by ourselves…we are depending on you and if we work together in unity, we will get this town the way we want it. Be the watchman for us, if you see people doing what they are not supposed to be doing, we will send out somebody and call the media”. She said that the sanitation workers work for $1,265 per day. “That is $6325 a week…how much can that do?” she questioned.
Mayor Claude Henry added that the council will be selling off properties of defaulting tax payers very shortly. “We’ve already moved to the courts and we have a large list of persons who owe monies to us, so we don’t have millions of dollars coming in to this municipality and for those reasons, we have been trying to manage what we have in the best ways that we have”.
Town Clerk, Merlyn Henry, in speaking to Kaieteur News said that politics and ‘friend-ism’ has “a lot to do with [the state of] things in the town”. She announced too that the town council has a “good” relationship with the Region 6 Administration.
“We also have to blame ourselves because a lot of people do a lot of nonsense through Trinity Street; there is no proper drainage”. Whenever it rains heavily, Trinity Street in New Amsterdam is always submerged under water.
Several businesses and shops are located in that street and several complaints were made about it to the Region 6 Administration. During a recent press conference, Region 6 Chairman, David Armogan when asked by a reporter about the flooding of the Trinity Street and its poor state, stated, “people come to us as if we have taken over the [N/A Mayor &] Town Council…..we have not! The Municipality still remains as the Municipality and therefore whatever comes under them, they will have to address. We are prepared to help the municipality, but it looks as though the municipality is helping us– the other way around– that the work is ours and whenever they feel like ‘throwing in’ from time to time, then they throw in”.
“We have not taken over the responsibility of the Town Council, and they should not be allowed to abdicate their responsibility. They have a responsibility to the residents of the town…the residents pay their taxes not to the RDC; they pay it to the Town Council and therefore they [the town council] must do their work”.
Armogan invited the town council to approach the RDC for assistance whenever it is needed. Armogan, in speaking with the media, said that the businessman in the street, “to repair his gutters, because he is going to continue to flood the road”…and “if he doesn’t repair his gutter, he is going to break the whole street”.
The Town Clerk, in response, said that the council needs to take sterner action against the persons who build structures and disrupt the drainage systems in the town, like the one disrupting the smooth flow of water in Trinity Street whenever it rains. “The business people have to work with the system that is given, because if the Mayor and Deputy- Mayor go and tell them they have to break down [the structures] that the water can flow freely, he has to do it, but because the ‘friend-ism’ involved….maybe somebody and somebody is friends so nobody wants to decide to say anything, so it is still there and it will continue to hamper the street…”. “We (the council) have to be doing what we are supposed to be doing”.
Deputy Mayor of New Amsterdam, Harold Dabydeen blames the breakdown of discipline amongst business persons in the town, on “friendship business”. “This friend thing is killing the town”, he said.