The city’s executive committee this week extended the deadline for the finalisation of all objections. The process was to be closed by June 30, but officials dealing with the process had asked for this to be extended to November 30.
When the objections closed last May, the municipality had received a total of 9921 objections, which it intended to process by the end of this month.
However, a report from the city’s real estate unit, which was tabled before the city’s executive committee (EXCO) on Tuesday, showed that only 5208 (52%) objections had been processed so far.
Progress had been hampered by a number of issues, the report states. These include staff going on planned and unplanned leave, along with vacant posts and the resignation of a member of one team.
“Objectors increasingly requesting reasons and on- site inspections are becoming more time consuming,” the report states.
Going forward, staff will be working overtime to try and speed up the process.
“There is constant monitoring and reporting on progress made with regard to objections and appeals the section 71 report to MPAC (Municipal Public Accounts Committee),” the report states.
Exco approved the extension, but not without members of the opposition raising their own concerns about the slow pace it was taking to process the objections.
The DA’s Sharon Hoosen proposed that the rates increases be waived for those who had lodged objections pending finalisation of the process, so they would not have to pay higher bills in the interim, but this was rejected.
Chief finance officer Krish Kumar said that compared with other metros eThekwini had a very low number of objections, as the total number of people who objected represented about 2% of the metro.
“We are at 2%, and I think it is very good. It shows that people have confidence in the valuation roll and that we have stabilised valuations.”
Kumar said that if a valuation was found to be incorrect, the city refunded with interest.
“We go back and retrospectively we correct and pay back with interest, so we do not prejudice the ratepayer in respect of that,” he said.
He later told The Mercury that the money was normally paid back into the ratepayer’s bill.
“But if someone wants an EFT (electronic funds transfer), we can do that.
DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said the party was concerned that if it had taken the city the past year to deal with only 52% of the objections, how would they process the remaining objections within the next few months?
Another DA councillor, Heinz de Boer, said there were people who wanted to sell their homes but could not get the rates clearance certificates pending the finalisation of their valuation objections.
“By not dealing with these objections timeously we are prejudicing people. Its not a new issue, we have had unending property valuations for many years,” he said.
Kumar said the last time the city had an objections process, it took about two years.
He said the city would try and prioritise the objections of those who were selling their properties “because we certainly do not want to hold up sales”.
Kumar said he had been given assurances by those involved in the process that the November deadline would be met.
If ratepayers were not satisfied with the outcome of the objection, they could file an appeal that would be handled by an independent committee.