BUD­GET BLASTED

Ratepay­ers in­fu­ri­ated by Nd­lambe’s ad­just­ments

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - ROB KNOWLES

FOL­LOW­ING months of to-and-fro­ing on the Nd­lambe an­nual bud­get, the gloves are off, with both the Nd­lambe Ratepay­ers Fo­rum and the Port Al­fred Res­i­dents and Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion claim­ing foul. The mu­nic­i­pal bud­get was tabled and ap­proved by coun­cil on March 31, within the 90-day pe­riod stip­u­lated in the Mu­nic­i­pal Fi­nan­cial Man­age­ment Act, and made avail­able for pub­lic com­ment. The tabled bud­get in­cluded a R100-mil­lion deficit.

“How is the pub­lic ex­pected to com­ment on a bud­get where cuts would have to be made to bal­ance the bud­get? This tabled bud­get also set the prop­erty rates in­crease at 6.4%,” NRF chair­man Chis Bezuiden­hout said.

The NRF met with Nd­lambe fi­nance di­rec­tor Michael Klaas for an up­date on the bud­get in mid-May and were told that in or­der to re­duce the deficit, the rates in­crease would be 9% and the rates re­bate re­duced from 14% to 12%.

“This was un­ac­cept­able to the NRF be­cause a 9% rates in­crease is above Trea­sury rec­om­men­da­tion and the pro­posed 2% re­duc­tion in the rates re­bate was also re­jected,” Bezuiden­hout said, adding that this would be un­af­ford­able for many el­derly pen­sion­ers or res­i­dents on fixed in­comes and that a 9% in­crease would have to be re-pub­lished for pub­lic com­ment, which could de­lay the fi­nal ap­proval of the bud­get. How­ever, the dead­line for sub­mis­sion of the bud­get to prov­ince has passed.

The NRF pro­posed that if small cuts were made from bud­geted ex­pen­di­ture on some line items this could re­late to a de­crease of prop­erty rates from 9% to 7%.

Bezuiden­hout said the salary/labour cost ra­tio to ex­pen­di­ture was 40%, which was way above the norm of 35%.

He went on to say that cuts could be made in the pay­ment of over­time (bud­geted at R5.8-mil­lion), on ca­sual labour (bud­geted at R3.8-mil­lion) and the lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment (LED) ex­pen­di­ture (bud­geted at R5.3-mil­lion).

Bezuiden­hout also pointed out bud­geted items such as uni­forms at R1.8-mil­lion, com­put­ers set at R4.5-mil­lion, cater­ing ser­vices bud­geted at R1.2-mil­lion, as well as travel and sub­sis­tence set at R4.1-mil­lion.

He said a writ­ten pro­posal to this ef­fect had been sub­mit­ted to Nd­lambe mayor Phindile Faxi in June but that, to date, the NRF had re­ceived no re­sponse.

On the sub­ject of cater­ing, Parra chair­man Dawie van Wyk was in­cred­u­lous. “The cater­ing ser­vices come to a to­tal of R951 490.33,” he said.

“Cater­ing for the mayor is bud­geted at R271500 and that for the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager [Rolly Dumezweni], R273502.33.”

Van Wyk went on to state fig­ures he be­lieves are un­ac­cept­able; the cost of ca­su­als in the ad­justed bud­get at R2516 255, a vari­ance of R1286 567 on the tabled bud­get of R1 286 567, or a 95.58% in­crease.

As for over­time, the ad­justed bud­get stands at R5 768 001.30 from its orig­i­nal fig­ure of R2 562 069, a vari­ance of R3 205 932.30 or a 125.13% in­crease.

”The ratepay­ers of Nd­lambe are be­ing to­tally ig­nored,” an an­gry Van Wyk said.

“The mu­nic­i­pal­ity agreed dur­ing the bud­get pe­riod to re­duce over­time and ca­su­als sig­nif­i­cantly, which they did. Now all they do is put vast vari­ances into the ad­just­ment bud­get. The ratepay­ers feel this is ex­tremely un­der­hand[ed]. Why agree to re­duce the ini­tial bud­get for ca­su­als and over­time only to in­crease it again in the ad­just­ment bud­get?”

The same ar­gu­ment was ex­pressed by Bezuiden­hout: “Dis­re­gard for ratepay­ers is clearly il­lus­trated, that when the bud­get was fi­nally ap­proved by coun­cil the im­pact and af­ford­abil­ity of the rates tar­iff in­crease, well above guide­lines by Trea­sury, was not even de­bated.

“Once again the ratepay­ers are asked to ‘bite the bul­let’ and ac­cept this in­crease. The NRF was led to be­lieve in its meet­ing with of­fi­cials that fur­ther cuts in ex­pen­di­ture can af­fect de­liv­ery of ser­vices.

“[Yet,] al­though de­liv­ery of some ser­vices could be af­fected, ratepay­ers pay sep­a­rately for es­sen­tial ser­vices such as wa­ter, refuse re­moval, san­i­ta­tion and elec­tric­ity,” he said.

Bezuiden­hout asked if the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had con­sid­ered ser­vice de­liv­ery when they ap­proved wast­ing R200 000 on pur­chas­ing lap­tops for coun­cil­lors, spend­ing R750000 to pur­chase a ve­hi­cle for may­oral use, while at the same time cut­ting the amount bud­geted for plant and equip­ment from R177000 to just R36 000.

He pointed out that sub­sis­tence and trav­el­ling ex­pense for two coun­cil­lors to ac­com­pany the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager and the in­fra­struc­ture di­rec­tor to Ger­many on the Ger­man Gov­ern­ment spon­sored Eco vil­lage project in Ken­ton-on-Sea were not ap­proved by coun­cil be­fore em­bark­ing on the trip.

“And why are we pay­ing Ward com­mit­tee mem­bers R700 per meet­ing?” Bezuiden­hout asked.

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