….current payments described as ‘ridiculously low’
Interim Management Committee Chairman Orrin Gordon has said that property owners in Linden will soon have to pay an increase in rates and taxes of at least fifty percent to enable the cash-strapped municipality to pay its workers a decent wage, and better take care of the services offered to residents in the mining town.
Gordon said that the projected increase was included in the municipal budgetary estimates for 2010, and sent to the Ministry of Local Government for approval since mid-November, but to date there has been no approval, even though the Ministry has acknowledged receiving same.
He added that a response from the Ministry should have been forthcoming by the end of November or at least by the first week in December.
According to Gordon, municipal workers presently earn far less than the minimum wage, and in order to address this problem, the only option is to increase the present rates and taxes being paid by property owners, which he described as ‘ridiculously low’.
‘Some home owners in Linden pay as little as ninety dollars in rates and taxes per year, with a large number of other proprietors paying a paltry $1000,’ Gordon pointed out.
‘No homeowner in Linden pays more than $9,000 per year in rates and taxes, and even the big commercial businesses on Republic Avenue do not pay in excess of $35,000 per year,’ he added. Rates and taxes were not increased since 1997, however, the municipality had been asking for an increase since 2006, Gordon said.
‘In 2006, President Jagdeo had promised that there would be no tax increase, then, lo and behold in 2007 there was VAT,’ Gordon declared.
Later the Ministry had advised that valuations could be done and the necessary taxes charged.
The prohibitive cost of the valuations has however put paid to that idea, as the municipality cannot afford same, Gordon emphasized.
He then alluded to the Urban Development Programme (UDP), which should have done the valuations in all six municipalities in the country, but which was only partially completed.
Apart from doing the valuations, the UDP was also engaged in improving the infrastructure within the town such as rehabilitating roads, markets etc.
Gordon said that that was most disappointing as US$26 million was expended on that programme, and the tax roll which should have been made available to the municipalities, subsequent to the UDP’s valuations was never seen by his municipality.
The UDP employed the CAMA system, which involves photographing the community aerially, then returning to the ground and checking each building in the photographs. Upon completion of that exercise, valuation would then be done and sent to the municipality for claims and objections.
Even though all of that was done, no tax roll was ever presented to the Linden municipality.
All the other municipalities received their tax rolls, with the possible exception of Georgetown Gordon added.
Further compounding matters is the additional 2000 acres of land in the Amelia’s Ward, Block 22 and One Mile areas, where new construction is taking place.
Gordon said that these new properties need to be put on roll, so that the proprietors could start paying their rates and taxes. Without the necessary legislation from the Ministry of Local Government, these properties cannot be put on roll.
Further, because certain areas were not officially handed over by the Central Housing and Planning Authority, the municipality has not been able to service those areas.
Presently the municipality collects approximately $20 million per year, which is a little over fifty percent of what it should be collecting in rates and taxes. Gordon said this is way below the Council’s wages bill which is $43 million annually.
And even with revenue collected from the Mackenzie/Wismar Bridge, the toll at Kara Kara, and revenue from the two municipal markets, funds are still way below what is required to adequately pay municipal staff and take care of the council’s day to day business.
Gordon emphasized that with the fifty percent increase, the municipality would be in a relatively stronger position to honour its commitments to the community.
He also drew attention to the law which states that all expenses should be covered by rates and taxes.
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