GEORGE NEWS - The proposed tariff increases for the next three financial years might help soften the blow of the Covid-19 lockdown blues. It shows a gentle approach with little change in yearly increases up to 2023, in an attempt to support the survival of local households and businesses.
The draft multi-year budget for George was tabled last Thursday, 28 May, during an electronic special council meeting.
The proposed tariff increases for water and general tariffs are the same as last year's increase, with a reduction in percentage for all the other sections ranging from 1,5% (property rates) to 6,85% (electricity).
Residents' insets on the proposed budget will be taken into account through the public participation process, which will start soon, according to acting chief financial officer Leon Wallace. The budget will be adopted in June. "However, the budget is not cast in stone. It is possible to change it later, and it will be managed as the overall effect of Covid-19 comes to light," he said.
With a capital budget of more than R1-billion, the portion allocated for water and sewerage exceeds R500-million. Mayor Leon van Wyk said balancing the budget is a tricky business.
"The municipality needs to spend money on infrastructure to progress as a city. Loans must be taken out for the enlargement and renovation of the waterworks, sewerage works and the pumping stations. The repayments on the loans must be paid, and the rates must include the repayments, which makes it difficult to lower tariffs any further. On the other hand, we are well aware of residents' financial struggles amidst the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.
Municipal Manager Trevor Botha said George Municipality is one of the five best financially managed municipalities in the Western Cape.
"National Treasury provides more funding for struggling municipalities. Therefore we have to use our own funds or take out loans to do the upgrades. This is the dilemma, but we are constantly appealing to Treasury for extra funding," said Botha.
"To attract more investment to George we must continue with the top quality delivery of our basic services. Here we do what we need to do, and we do it very well. We need to look at revenue generation - keeping in mind that there is a decrease in revenue from electricity and water sales - and look at what types of packages we can offer the business community. We will include input from the public to compile a final budget."
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