Mayor’s draft budget: Residents to cough up

The Speaker said sport is a matter of wellness and that everyone could Google what it is. She went on to say that it's a great way for everyone to come together. A councillor replied to the Google suggestion by saying, "Speaker, if you Google 'Randfontein' you'll get potholes", which caused quite a stir.

 

Randfontein and Westonaria tax payers will soon have to cough up if the proposed annual budget is approved.

Mzi Khumalo, the Rand West City Local Municipality Executive Mayor, tabled the draft annual budget for the 2017/ 2018 year to council at the end of March. It’s said that ward councillors need to discuss the draft budget with the community before the final implementation of tariffs in July 2017.

It was revealed that the draft Medium Term Revenue and Expenditure (MTREF) framework of the municipality for 2017/ 2018 reflects a surplus of R6,4 million which will increase to R68 million by 2019/ 2020. The operating revenue for 2017/ 2018 is R1,556 billion and will increase to R1,831 billion by 2019/ 2020.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as always kept the Speaker busy with disagreements and pointed out a number of items they are unhappy with.

The increase in revenue is mainly influenced by expected tariff increases as well as increases in the grants received from national government. The municipality is expecting to increase tariffs by 7 per cent in the next three financial years. In line with the Integrated Development Plan (IDP), the municipality has set a strategic objective of increasing revenue by R100 million.

The operating expenditure for 2017/ 2018 is R1,549 billion. This will increase to R1,763 billion in 2019/ 2020. It’s said the increase relates mainly to the increase in bulk tariffs for water and electricity as well as expected increases on salaries.

Remuneration for councillors was estimated to increase by 4 per cent.

Breaking the draft budget up indicates that property rates, for example, are estimated to increase by R20 million in the 2017/ 2018 financial year due to a proposed increase of 7 per cent on tariffs, and to R267 million over the next three financial years.

Khumalo explained that the municipality needs to increase the revenue from property rates to finance some of the maintenance challenges the institution is facing. He says further the tariffs paid by residents of the former Randfontein were lower than the tariffs payable in the former Westonaria.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as always kept the Speaker busy with disagreements and pointed out a number of items they are unhappy with.

The municipality is forecasting a R43 million increase in the electricity income, to R559 million. The expectation is that the increase will mainly be derived from the current 24 per cent the municipality is losing on electricity income. The tariffs will be increased by 1,8 per cent in line with Nersa guidelines. Seasonal tariffs also will be implemented for the 2017/ 2018 financial year.

Regarding electricity theft, Khumalo said “The fight against electricity losses will be pursued.”

Alwyn van Tonder, councillor for Ward 3 and Caucus Leader for the DA in Randwest City.

The new penalty for electricity tampering is R5 000 for a household and R7 500 for businesses. If the bridging results in cable ripping, the penalty for reconnection will range from R9 500 to R13 500.The household will also be charged 1 100 deemed units and businesses 5 500 deemed units per month.

The revenue for water is estimated to increase by R25 million, mainly as a result of increased tariffs. Overall, water tariffs are expected to increase by more than 12 per cent in the next financial year – but Westonaria communities face a much higher increase. The municipality will also be introducing new tariffs relating to the basic charge of R32 to Randfontein households.

The revenue for waste management will increase by R4 million per annum, from R54 million to R58 million in the 2017/ 2018 financial year. The waste collection tariffs for Randfontein are less than for Westonaria; therefore the community of Randfontein will have increases on their tariffs of between 6,4 and 135 per cent.

The revenue for sanitation will be increased by R3 million in the 2017/ 2018 financial year, mostly due to a tariff increase of 6,4 percent for Westonaria consumers and 6,4 to 252 per cent for Randfontein consumers.

Employee-related costs constitute 32 per cent of the total operating expenditure and have increased to R496 million from R462 million in the current financial year. The basic salaries for staff will increase by 7,4 per cent, in line with the signed multi-year agreement. The remuneration for councillors was estimated to increase by 4 per cent in the next financial year.

It was also mentioned that the municipality spends 42 per cent of its money procuring water and electricity from Rand Water and Eskom. It’s said the expenditure is unavoidable and an extreme priority.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as always kept the Speaker busy with disagreements and pointed out a number of items they are unhappy with.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes the draft budget will impact residents negatively. According to Alwyn van Tonder, councillor for Ward 3 and Caucus Leader for the DA in Randwest City, “It is clear the taxpayers of Rand West City will once again be expected to pay for the bad decisions made by the ANC. The merger of Randfontein and Westonaria was pushed through by the ANC as a result of fear – fear that the DA would govern Randfontein after the recent 2016 elections. We (the DA) raised our concerns about most of the potential increases before the merger. These increases are now being proposed in this draft budget.”On 29 March, I addressed the Council on the draft budget and raised concerns about the excessive proposed tariff increases that mostly the Randfontein residents will be expected to pay. We disagree with this draft budget and have informed the Mayor in Council that we will oppose these proposals if the budget is not amended.””Currently the water and electrical losses are estimated at about R100 million per annum (this includes water leaks and electricity theft). This indicates that the municipality is definitely not focused on resolving the losses. It is also not applying the credit control policy effectively as indicated by the amount of R884 million in outstanding debtors. In my opinion, the municipality should start working to increase revenue on these two issues instead of over-taxing the current loyal ratepayers of this city.”

Councillor Van Tonder said that the biggest shocker is probably that of agricultural property rates, which are to be sub-categorised, resulting in agricultural smallholders experiencing a 323 per cent increase to bring them in line with residential properties in town. “In short, the residents are expected to pay more and receive less. Attend the IDP and Budget meetings that will follow and let us unite and stand together against paying for the wrong decisions made by the ANC.”

Speaker Noina-Mzondeki in Council Chambers.

Some of the other concerns about proposed increases he pointed out concern industrial electricity, < 1000KVA. Councillor Van Tonder said, “Companies in Randfontein will pay 59 per cent more in winter and 27 per cent more in summer per KWH used. With the implementation of time of use tariffs last year, many companies are already struggling to stay afloat. The new tariffs might result in companies relocating or even closing down.”

Regarding waste income per bin, he said, “Randfontein businesses will experience an increase of 125,4 per cent, residential Randfonteiners will have to deal with an increase of 23,72 per cent, and old age homes in Randfontein will experience a 110,72 per cent increase, while Westonaria as a whole will have a mere 6,4 per cent increase.”

“The budget will be made available to the public and as the DA we want to urge all residents and businesses to voice their concerns and make inputs to the municipality. Attend the IDP and Budget meetings that will follow and let us unite and stand together against paying for the wrong decisions made by the ANC. As the Democratic Alliance we are of the opinion that residents must pay for the services they receive but they should also receive the services they pay for ! This is, however, not the case in Rand West City.”

Other items discussed in council were the tragic deaths of two children in Wards 33 and 45 due to the municipality’s negligence. There was also a moment of silence for Ahmed Kathrada, Joe Mafela and the Life Esidimeni tragedy victims.The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as always kept the Speaker busy with disagreements and pointed out a number of items they are unhappy with, such as too much funding going to sport.

Remuneration for councillors was estimated to increase by 4 per cent.

They suggested having one or two major sporting activities throughout the year, and using the extra money that would have been spent for service delivery and employment.

The Speaker said sport is a matter of wellness and that everyone could Google what it is. She went on to say that it’s a great way for everyone to come together. A councillor replied to the Google suggestion by saying, “Speaker, if you Google ‘Randfontein’ you’ll get potholes”, which caused quite a stir.

The EFF also proposed that the municipality should write off all debt and start Rand West on a clean slate. They also disagreed with the indigenous policy, to which the Mayor replied: “Everything cannot be for free.”

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at [email protected]  (please remember to include your contact details in the email) or phone us on 011 693 3671.

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Clinton Botha
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