Farmers up in arms
Several concerns raised recently by farmers in the greater Mossel Bay area regarding municipal tariffs and services have come to the fore.
The Brak River Farmers' Association, among others, indicated its dissatisfaction with the most recent valuation process and rates determination.
The farmers' associations intimate they were given the assurance that every member would be contacted individually by representatives of the valuator to assist in determining a fair property valuation, but that not a single member was visited or contacted by the valuator or their representatives.
Rates and taxes
"We have no idea on what basis and at what remuneration this firm did the valuation for the municipality," a member of the farmers' association told the Mossel Bay Advertiser.
He raised concern about the property rates that were increased by approximately 300% from the previous valuation.
In response, the Mossel Bay Municipality said the last general property valuation was undertaken five years ago and that, as a result, properties, including agricultural land was undervalued.
The recent general valuation brought property value in line with market value.
"All property owners, agricultural landowners included, were given an opportunity to object against their property's revised valuation. If still dissatisfied, an appeal could have been lodged with the Valuation Appeals Board. The public participation process was concluded before the valuation role was implemented," the municipal manager, Advocate Thys Giliomee said.
Agricultural land is levied on 25% of the residential rate for the property, resulting in property tariffs being lower than that of residential or other property. This, according to the municipal manager, signifies the importance placed on agricultural land and its contribution towards the local economy.
Advocate Giliomee stated that farmers were levied a special tariff of "Agricultural Supply" for electricity and also on a special electricity tariff which is levied for water pumps. No basic fee is charged on these special tariffs, and only the usage is levied.
"All prepaid electricity meters being used in the municipal area are supplied with 20Kwh of free electricity monthly, and indigents are supplied with 50Kwh of free electricity."
Farmers voiced their dissatisfaction at not receiving any municipal services for the seemingly exorbitant charges they are levied.
Farmers say they are forced to maintain a municipal water meter within an urban or periurban zone for loading weekly drinking water in bulk quantities for employees and they are penalised on quantity consumed.
According to the municipality, water is charged for on a sliding scale similar to every other category of user in the Tariff List. The municipal manager invited farmers to contact the municipality's rural development department to assist with the provision of water tanks and the monthly supply of 6kl water to qualifying farmers. The department of water affairs and sanitation may be contacted to provide bulk water points, toilets and septic tanks in rural areas as it is its competency, the municipal manager insisted.
Farmers raised concerns about farm workers having difficulty accessing urban housing.
According to the municipality, the local government works closely with the provincial Department of Human Settlements in implementing housing projects for the community.
"Qualifying farm workers may participate in housing projects and it is advisable their names are included on waiting and beneficiary lists for current and future housing developments. Mossel Bay has residential sites available at a reduced price in several areas, specifically for first-time homeowners. These sites may be purchased for the owner to build their own home.
"Should any property owner, not only owners of agricultural land, be dissatisfied with their property valuation and wish to appeal the valuation, they may request the municipality in writing for a supplementary valuation to be undertaken," Advocate Giliomee said.