File picture: Pexels
File picture: Pexels

Outa calls on municipalities to consider reducing property rates

By Kailene Pillay Time of article published May 21, 2020

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Durban - While eThekwini Municipality has proposed some relief for ratepayers whose finances have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has called on municipalities to consider reducing property rates.

The municipality’s executive committee this week approved a proposal for writing off the total interest raised on customers account on condition they paid 50% of their arrears on or before June 30.

The remainder of the debt would be put on a payment plan that did not exceed 24 months, interest free.

In a report to the committee, the City said the incentive was only offered to customers with debt of 90 days and older.

However, all interest written off would be reinstated should a customer default on their payment plan with the City, the report stated further.

It noted that existing customers on a payment plan with the City would also be afforded the opportunity to take part in this incentive as a “once-off offering”.

Although there was no way to forecast how many customers would take up this incentive, the City estimated that at least R1 billion would be written off.

Outa said yesterday its petition for property rates to be reduced in light of the financial impact of the Covid-19 lockdown had garnered support from more than 60 000 South Africans.

The organisation said it would hand over the petition to all municipalities in the coming week.

“Thousands of people have lost their jobs or a significant part of their income, and not all property owners can afford to keep paying property rates due to the unprecedented economic fallout of Covid-19.

“Municipalities around the country have the ability to assist financially by cutting or reducing property rates on their municipal bill,” Outa’s Julius Kleynhans said.

Outa said according to the Local Government Municipal Property Rates Act 6 of 2004, municipalities have the mandate to bring relief to residents in the form of exemptions, reductions and rebates on property rates as per Section 15 (1) and (2) of the Act.

“This section expressly permits exemption and reductions within an area affected by a disaster within the meaning of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002.”

Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive council (PEC) said it welcomed the approval, by national government, of the Municipal Disaster Relief Grant to the tune of R47.4m. 

The PEC said while the funds were not sufficient, it would assist in meeting the immediate needs due to the pandemic. 

The funds would assist in dealing with sanitation and waste management issues, carrying out decontamination of specific municipal spaces, and providing personal protective equipment and hygiene packs where needed. 

“The provincial and the local government lockdown recovery plans will be unveiled soon by the Governance, State Capacity and Institutional Development Cluster,” the PEC said.

The Mercury

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