GEORGE NEWS - The drafting of the new budget for the 2021/2022 financial year was no easy task. Add the additional impact of Covid-19, as well as Eskom's tariff increase of 17,8% for the purchase of bulk electricity, and you have a real number cruncher on hand.
Mayor Leon van Wyk said what made the drafting of the budget extremely difficult is the fact that George is in dire need of upgrading, refurbishing and the provision of additional infrastructure for wastewater and water.
The plan is to position George in such a way that it is geared for the expected economic growth.
With the tabling of the draft budget last week Thursday, Van Wyk said Eskom's tariff increases are more than three times the inflation projection. "The increases announced by Eskom over the past decade have undermined municipalities' ability to charge cost-reflective tariffs for their own basic services. The extent of this increase is very worrying," he said.
Portfolio Councillor for Finance Dirk Wessels said residents seemed to be quite accepting of the proposed tariffs that were released last week, with the exception of the massive spike in the electricity tariff.
"Electricity, however, is a national function and we are not immune against the mismanagement in Eskom. That's the reason why we see a 37,6% increase in electricity over the span of three years," said Wessels. "We have to buy bulk electricity from Nersa and there is no other way to soften the blow."
Rates and services
Both Van Wyk and Wessels emphasised that the aim is to keep tariff increases as low as possible. There are several factors that had to be taken into account, such as the economic situation, George's growth and the pressure associated with Covid-19.
The draft budget will now be subject to a public participation process and people will be able to provide input.
Van Wyk and Wessels said they realise the consumer is under pressure, but there are certain realities the municipality has to face, such as the provision of sustainable services. If electricity tariffs are cut by only 1%, an amount of R8,7-million less will be available. This means that if tariffs are cut, it is at the expense of other divisions and services.
Importance of infrastructure
The capital budget and the operating budget form the overall budget. The capital budget amounts to about R368-million. Of that, 90% goes to civil and technical and electrical engineering. This underlines the importance of infrastructure.
Not only does infrastructure need to be expanded, it must also be maintained. Van Wyk said the municipality had reached a point where it had to decide which projects are more important.
"Over the next three years we want to spend over R1-billion on infrastructure, among others, to ensure George is the best secondary city in the country," said Wessels. "All proposed tariffs within the municipal mandate are 6% and less. It shows our sympathy and empathy for the current economic situation."
Say your say
The public can give their feedback telephonically, per e-mail and/or in writing until 30 April via the contact details below:
•Budget office: C Jansen van Vuuren 044 807 9090 / email@example.com
•Written correspondence should be addressed to: The Municipal Manager, 2021/2022 IDP/Budget; PO Box 19; George; 6530; Fax: 044 801 9175.
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