– Williams renews call for new sources
The Georgetown Municipality was severely affected last year by its inability to garner enough revenue, which has prompted Deputy Mayor Robert Williams to renew calls for the revenue base to be expanded.
Williams, who is also Chairman of its Finance Committee, said during his presentation of the 2009 Budget on Monday that the city has a responsibility to mobilize financial and other resources for the delivery of services and consequently it needed to expand its revenue base and update regulations to support the initiatives being undertaken.
During last year, the council had estimated collection of $1. 95 billion from six areas but experienced a shortfall of $600 million. Major shortfalls were in the areas of solid waste management (where there was a $50 million deficit from the budgeted income of $65 million) and in property taxes (where only $1.1 billion was collected out of the budgeted $ 1.5 billion).
According to Williams, the council had expected to garner some amount of income from charging those persons (other than the City Council’s contractors) who disposed of garbage at the temporary landfill site. However, according to the Deputy Mayor, once the fee structure was instituted there was a significant reduction in disposals. He said individuals found other places to dump their garbage, including at the temporary landfill site which was opened at Lusignan for the East Coast Demerara.
Meanwhile, the $400 million shortfall in property taxes during last year revealed that only 70% of the budgeted income was received. In 2007, the council was able to obtain 75% of the amount budgeted for that year. Williams explained that this shortfall occurred despite concessions granted and efforts made at the judicial level to persuade defaulters to meet their obligations.
Meanwhile, although the council’s projected expenditure was in the sum of $ 1.95 billion, it only spent $1.51 billion. Major expenses were employment costs ($778 million), administrative costs ($265 million) and general maintenance ($243 million). However, these all fell below the budgeted sums. The budgeted amounts for the employment and administrative costs and general maintenance were $950 million, $345 million and $381 million respectively.
However, according to Williams, while the municipality was able to reduce expenditure in some areas there was an increase in expenditure for the removal of garbage by $6 million and water charges by $8 million. The fuel bill of the council increased from $28 million to $44 million owing to increased fuel prices and the need to operate pumps more than usual.
Williams also said that the day care services offered by the municipality cost the council over $60 million, while they only garnered $10 million. This area is under review, he explained.
Another area of concern, Williams said was that there were 434 vacancies in the various departments, which were not filled. This resulted in excessive overtime costs having to be paid to the various staff members.
On Monday, the city unveiled a budget of almost $ 2.2 billion for this year, and Williams vowed that City Hall would be aggressively pursuing its collection of revenue during the year.
He also said that City Hall would be reviving dialogue with the central government to see how new revenue sources could be implemented. Further the council is planning to initiate discussions with unions to examine joint avenues of earning revenue.