At a meeting at the Linden municipality last week addressed by Minister of Local Government Norman Whittaker, calls were made for the Kara Kara Toll to be restored, but Whittaker, instead of heeding the call, exhorted the Council to extend its revenue base and “do those things that are right in the sight of the law.” He pointed out that the Kara Kara Toll, “was illegal and therefore not a consideration at this point in time.”
The Minister had on Friday travelled to Linden and had given written approval for the Council to utilize funds from accounts other than the General Accounts, to pay employees their July salaries.
However, Linden IMC Chairman Orrin Gordon said, that in as much as the workers were happy that they could finally receive their salaries, for July, his concern surrounds what will happen for the rest of 2014.
“Yes the Minister came, and gave approval for the utilization of other funds to pay the salaries, but that is just for one month, what happens to the rest of the year?”
Gordon was adamant that part of the reason that the Council is in its financially strapped state, is because of the disbanded Kara Kara toll booth.
“They said it was illegal, because it wasn’t gazetted, but whose fault was that, certainly not the Council’s!”
Earlier in the week Gordon had told the media that the municipality is forced to increase the toll for various categories of vehicles crossing the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge, in order to raise much needed money to help pay the salaries of its workers.
The Bridge fees, Gordon said have not been increased since 1994. Cars and vehicles attached to Bosai Minerals Inc. are the only ones that would not be affected by the new increases which shall be in effect from September 1st.
With the new increases, minibuses and 4×4 vehicle fees will move from $60 to $80, buses with more than fifteen seats will pay $120 instead of the current $100, Tractors will move from $220 to $240, tractors with trailers from $400 to $500,vehicles with capacity of one to two tonnes will also pay $500, instead of the current $400. Vehicles transporting produce (2-3 tonnes) will pay $600, an increase of one hundred dollars, while those with a capacity of three to four tonnes, will pay $840, an increase of one hundred and forty dollars.
Heavy duty vehicles, which currently pay $1000, will attract an increase of two hundred dollars; with three axle trucks having to pay an increase of five hundred, or $2000. The same applies to heavy earth moving equipment. Articulated trucks will be required to pay an increase of $1000, which will take the fee to $4000. Trucks attached to Bosai Minerals will continue to pay$1,200.
According to Gordon, the issue of cars and Bosai vehicles will be reviewed at the end of the year.
Gordon said that the 2014 budget submitted by the Council was not approved by the Minister of Local Government. That and the disbanding of the Kara Kara toll booth have put the municipality in ‘serious financial straits”. Revenues from the Kara Kara toll booth had accounted for some of the total revenues.
He also pointed out that at a recent meeting with the Minister; it was made clear that the Ministry of Local Government was not in favor of granting any subsidy to the municipality, which had asked for some $33million.
“This has put the municipality in serious financial straits, and as a consequence at the moment there is no money to pay the workers their salaries.”
Gordon said that the increased fee at the Bridge is only one of several financial sources that the municipality has to pursue in order to garner adequate finances to take care of its business.
Meanwhile, in a correspondence to Gordon, Minister of Local Government Norman Whittaker alluded to other possible sources of revenue, including the ‘soon to be made available’ $9 million infrastructural addition to the Mackenzie Market.
Whittaker had noted in the letter, “While I empathise with the situation of the workers and their dependent families, I find it extremely difficult to understand the Council’s lack of effort to address the inadequacies and inefficiencies, the ineptitude and inertia of the Council and some staff that led to Council’s awesome situation.”
He advised that the municipality focus on a debt collection drive, while expanding legitimate revenue resources, and cut employment costs by reexamining its staff inventory, “vis a vis the need to be productive and disengage those workers who are underutilized and underproductive”.
According to Whittaker, the Council’s resources are not presently being efficiently utilized.
However, Gordon strongly refuted those statements, saying that the municipality has been ‘working strenuously’ to increase its revenue base.
One of those efforts he said was an attempt to garner more funds through its collection of rates and taxes.
“We had asked for evaluation(in order to do that), they sent up a team- they didn’t do a good job, as they valued properties at 1997 levels which was totally inadequate-so at the end of the day what happened was the amount of money we were looking for, we did not get. They had also indicated that they would have hired attorneys to assist us in our efforts to collect outstanding monies from property owners. However, those services have not been available to us, so in essence they were giving us assurances when we were not able to get the services of those attorneys, “ Gordon said.
“So the claim that the municipality is not doing anything to get revenues is basically disingenuous!” (Enid Joaquin)
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