Budget blues for residents

The mayor announced in her draft budget speech that R9 million would be set aside for the construction of the Dunoon library to be completed by next year.

Activist group Stop City of Cape Town (Stop COCT) says it will not allow the public participation process on the draft budget to be used as “an inconvenient tick box” to allow the City of Cape Town to approve what they call a “one-sided and unfair” budget.

Mayor Patricia de Lille tabled the proposed budget for 2018/19 during a full sitting of council on Wednesday March 28.

Ms De Lille’s speech included a list of new municipal charges including a 26.9% water increase and a R5 billion cash injection into informal settlements, water and waste services.

Ms De Lille urged residents to have their say and submit comments. The closing date for the public participation process is Friday May 4.

Some of the projects highlighted for the northern suburbs include R9 million for the construction of the Dunoon library as well as R22 million for the Dunoon taxi terminus. R35.1 million has been allocated towards the Potsdam Waste Water Treatment Works extension and R370 million for the Atlantis aquifer project.

Further tariff hikes include 7.2% in rates, 8.1% in electricity, 26.9% in sanitation and 5.7% in refuse.

Last week Stop COCT updated its website after the mayor’s speech to receive the public’s comments and submit it to the City. Since Friday March 30, just under
10 000 comments have been received.

In a press release issued by Stop COCT, the group says the number of comments are extraordinary, taking into consideration that it was Easter weekend.

“Stop COCT will ensure the City of Cape Town does not violate the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and misuse this public participation to pass the budget,” read the statement.

Sandra Dickson, one of the founders of Stop COCT, said if the water tariff was approved, the already steep Level 6B water tariff increases would grow by another 26.96%.

“The current Level 6b increases represented a 500% plus increase in water tariffs. These new increases effective from July 1 this year will add a further 83% increase to your water bill. Added to this steep increase is a levy starting at R56 per month based on the size of the pipe delivering water to homes. This levy is stepped up in increments based on the diameter of your supplying water pipe. A pipe of 15mm attracts a levy of R56 up to a maximum sized pipe of 300mm which will attract a levy of R2 500. This is a stark reminder of the drought charge based on property values which was rejected by the public in January this year,” said Ms Dickson.

In her speech Ms De Lille said properties valued between R150 000 and
R400 000 all receive 10 500 litres of free water. Karen Davis, chairperson of the Greater Table View Action Forum (GTAF), felt this proposal was “ridiculous” .

“It seems the more people save water, the more the City expects people to pay to subsidise water augmentation projects, which I feel should come from national government and the City, not ratepayers.

“The burden is becoming too much for most people as it is and in the long run, will affect our economy on a large scale. The water management devices are an issue and I believe they should be scrapped until they can source meters that work properly and without fail. Why should people pay a service charge for a meter that restricts water consumption?,” she said.

She also disagreed with the amount allocated to Dunoon’s taxi rank and library and believed it would be better spent if pumped into infrastructure, roads and houses. She did, however, agree with the Potsdam Waste Water Treatment Works extension.

“I am no expert, but the water treatment works is of concern as this needs to ensure our recycled water for a huge and growing population, so in essence, I don’t believe this is unreasonable.”

Ms Dickson echoed Ms Davis’ sentiments about the project, saying it was much needed and long overdue. “The budget is very thin and disappointing on the re-use of waste water in general,” said Ms Dickson.

Mandy da Matta, vice-chairperson of the Table View Ratepayers’ Association, said the water increase “smacked of bad fiscal management”.

“The added increases on sewage/ water tariffs as well as the flat fees cannot and should not be afforded by the population of Cape Town due to the fact that the City management did not administer resources correctly,” said Ms Da Matta.

She said any increase based on property value “speaks to a rates and taxes issue” and not to water tariffs.

“In this instance we should call upon all residents to take up cause with the City and reject these increases as they do not fall under a category of fair and reasonable taxation. It would appear that the mayor is busy trying to raise funds for her political career as opposed to the good and fair management of the city.

“This preposterous unconscionable financial regime should not be put before the residents and should the mayor not remove these tariffs from the proposed budget then it is incumbent upon the residents to call for a referendum requesting the removal of the mayor; the removal of the mayor’s powers in setting up the budget in terms of the Municipal Finances Act and that public participation is required before a higher than inflation rate increases may be proposed,” said Ms Da Matta.

Peter Walsh, chairperson of the Milnerton Central Residents’ Association (MCRA), believes the public participation process should be see as nothing more than a “tick box on the City’s part”.

“One can sympathise with residents who are already on the back foot financially. Here comes another round of increases in tough economic times. On the other hand, the City has to raise money from somewhere in order to build and maintain infrastructure. But given how badly the City has dealt with the drought, on top of the fact that they attempted to drive through the unpopular drought levy and how they are not seen to be litigating for support from national government; one would expect the City to first get their own house in order before approaching the public. As pointed out by Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) and the Chamber of Commerce, the City is not outlining any massive cost-saving initiatives to us as residents. The question is how do they plan to save money before asking for more,” said Mr Walsh.

Ward 4 councillor, Wandisile Ngeyi, invited people on Facebook to attend a public participation meeting to comment on the draft 2018/19 budget.

The meeting will take place on Thursday April 12, at the Edgemead/Monte Vista Hall in Edgemead Drive between 7pm and 9pm.

“After a short corporate presentation the six wards (Wards 1, 4, 5, 70, 107 and 113) will break into work groups per ward to discuss and make comment on the draft 2018/19 budget.,” he said in his post.

* The City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority’s (TDA) draft operating budget amounts to R3.6 billion and its draft capital budget amounts to R1,74 billion.

On Monday April 2 Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport and urban development released a statement, saying the bulk of the capital expenditure will be spent on new housing developments and public transport infrastructure within the city’s urban inner core which included areas along the R27.

He added that a further R327 million will be spent on facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, such as universally accessible sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and walkways in areas which included Blaauwberg.