Rates relief for fire victims
To assist the owners of the 564 houses completely destroyed by the recent fires, the Knysna Council approved the waiving of property rates for one year for these fire victims during a Special Council meeting on 24 August.
This contribution by the Knysna Council is valued at R16.5-million. To date the municipality has spent over R7.5-million to restore electricity and water services, provide waivers to demolition and planning applications and support relief efforts.
Knysna mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies says the waiving of these rates affords affected residents respite from paying property rates for the 2017/18 financial year.
These properties will be recategorised in terms of Section 78 of the Municipal Property Rates Act
6 of 2006 from either “residential” or “business”, to “vacant land”.
Municipal manager Kam Chetty was delegated by Council to investigate the legal possibility to provide partial relief to property rates.
This section allows the municipality to adjust the valuation roll when necessary, for residents who can prove that their house was partially damaged by the fires, and no longer habitable. These partial ratexemption cases will be handled on an individual basis.
Some Greater Knysna residents raised concerns about the recent property rates increases. Property owners were given an opportunity to comment on the recent property valuation, which was advertised in the local newspaper on 9 and 16 February. The deadline for comments was 7 April. The Finance Directorate will be hosting meetings with Greater Knsyna’s ratepayer’s associations to explain the rates increase.
The disaster has meant that the municipality will have to apply strict control measures in respect of expenditure management, as the revenue that was anticipated will diminish with the number of houses destroyed. It will not just impact this financial year, but will have an effect for years to come. A further aspect that arose from the disaster, which was dealt with in the adjustment budget, is the issue that internet connectivity cannot be lost nor can there be any downtime during a disaster. Funding has been allocated to the ITC department for improving the current systems.
The management of alien vegetation needs to be addressed urgently.
To this end, it was stated that environmental control programmes need to be implemented over the next five years, which will not only reduce the fire risk, but will improve the water crisis.
Short-term measures to alleviate the water crisis are being addressed, by providing funding for three projects, namely the springs at Bongani, the dewatering of the Makhulu quarry and the Sedgefield reservoir borehole pump. As this budget will impact on the service delivery and budget implementation plan (SDBIP) of the municipality, the SDBIP will be revised to bring it in line with the adjustments.
The glow of the fire above Brenton on Sea on 7 June just before evacuation. Ninety-two houses there were damaged or destroyed.