Pay close attention to your sneaky bill

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IT probably escaped the notice of many ratepayers, but if you look on your municipal accounts reflecting the current financial year (July onwards), the rates rebate dropped by 2%.

It used to be 16%, and it is now 14%. So at the same time the municipality increased rates, it decreased the percentage of the rebate, meaning the rates increase is effectively 11% rather than the 9% as posited by council in the annual increases.

This was a sneaky way of passing an increase that was in the double digits rather than the gentler sounding 9%.

Granted, 2% does not look like much in the grand scheme of things, but for homeowners who are trying to make every penny count, it does have an impact. It especially has an impact on pensioners on a fixed income.

I only joined the ranks of homeowners last year, even though I am not technically the owner yet as I am paying off a bond that will last at least 10 years. I noticed and felt it when I saw my rates jump by nearly a hundred rand while conversely my rebate was less than it was before.

All these increases are magnified in that they are compound increases every year – increases upon increases that are becoming increasingly unaffordable

All of these increases hit one in the pocket and make the cost of living that much more unaffordable. We know full well that for the rank and file in the private sector, annual salary increases are small – mostly below the inflation rate. Common people can never keep pace with the increases imposed by the municipality – both in rates and service charges for water, sewerage, refuse collection and electricity – though the latter is passed on by Eskom as approved by the National Energy Regulator.

And of all these increases are magnified in that they are compound increases every year – increases upon increases that are becoming increasingly unaffordable. This should be obvious in the amount of debt attributed to Ward 10 residents in the monthly debt reports.

Ward 10 has the largest rates base and contributes the lion’s share of rates revenue to the municipal coffers, so it is also understandable that there is a proportional amount of debt. It goes to show that the cost of living has already become unaffordable to many residents of the ward, although some may live under the illusion that Ward 10 residents are all milch cows.

The late Derek Victor, who was a valiant and often solitary warrior on behalf of the interests of ratepayers, used to repeatedly ask the chief financial officer if the municipality had done a means test before it proposed its annual increases. The answer was always no.

– Jon Houzet

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