May 18, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) yesterday approved a more than $2.4 billion budget for the year 2021. The budget was approved by way of a majority vote by councillors who were present at a special statutory meeting held at City Hall yesterday.
Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Georgetown M&CC, Oscar Clarke, who presented the budget, told the Georgetown municipality that its financial plan stands at $2,452,434,985. He said this includes a surplus of $153,482,441 which was rolled over from the previous year despite struggles related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clarke explained nonetheless that the budget presentation had faced several delays due to the pandemic.
He said however, that there were some engagements with the representatives of various constituencies and members of the Council on the 2021 budget before the pandemic hit last year. According to Clarke, it was based on those consultations that estimates were given for allocations to the various departments.
Clarke disclosed that each department was allocated a sizeable sum to carry out its functions. Giving a breakdown of the allocation, he noted that the Town Clerk’s Department will receive $196,758,741; the City Constabulary Department will receive $416,933,493; the Human Resource Department will receive $434, 507,283; the City Treasurer Department will receive $143,075,450; the Public Health Department will receive $256,480,208; the Solid Waste Department will receive $436,573, 873; the City Engineer Department will receive $381,938,140 and the Markets Department will receive $126,685,327.
In addition to the budget, Clarke said that the Council has taken some steps to garner more revenues. For instance, he said that the Council has approved a move to impose a $100 per week on citizens for the collection of garbage. This, Clarke said is a stark reduction from the price paid to contractors for the collection.
He explained that, “The contractors charge $2,400 per month to collect refuse while Council will do it for just $100 per week, which is a notable reduction where both parties will benefit… (and) the Council will be able to garner revenue to help us purchase trucks and other equipment we need for the adequate collection of solid waste in the city.”
Further, the Councillor added that due to the pandemic, the city has been forced to review its staffing capacity. In this regard, he said there will be some downsizing of the staff at the Day Care Centre, as well as, the security arm of the City Constabulary Department. “We will have to send them off, but we will ensure that they are paid their benefits,” Clarke assured.
The presentation of the Council’s 2021 budget received widespread praise from the Councillors, including City Mayor, Ubraj Narine; Deputy Mayor, Alfred Mentore, and City Treasurer, John Douglas.
In response to the presentation, Mayor Narine noted nevertheless that an aspect of the municipal budget is still omitted. He pointed to the annual subvention by central government which is approximately $300M. According to the Mayor, that sum is a legal requirement by central government.
“No monies have been allocated for central government from last year or for this year’s budget,” Mayor Narine said, even as he iterated that while the Council has the potential for growth and development “we need the help from central government.”
The Mayor pointed to $1B owed in taxes by government agencies. He said that Council has been owed these monies since 1994, and noted that appeals to consecutive governments for the monies to be paid, have fallen on deaf ears.
According to Mayor Narine, even after meeting with President Irfaan Ali, the Council is without the promised financial support.
He stressed that “nothing is forthcoming just the back and forth discussion between the Council and central government.”
Meanwhile, City Treasurer Douglas praised the 2021 budget and called it “well thought out.” He noted that the success of the city’s fiscal year was due to the placements of better strategies which lead to transparency in expenditures. He disclosed too, that the city now operates by a tender process for most of its work, which makes the spending of the monies more transparent and financially traceable.
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