I am very perturbed about Region Two councillors asking for an increase in rates and taxes within the NDCs and the municipality and for a new valuation for properties. During my tenure as the Acting Mayor of the Anna Regina Town Council I was part of the valuation team; digital cameras were used by valuators in 2002 and data was collected on all residential and commercial properties. After the two weeks’ exercise valuators prepared computer data on each ratepayer’s property and handed it over to the Ministry of Local Government. Virtually all of the material is equally relevant for the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, Regional Democratic Council and the township.
The ultimate objective was to both update the assessment rolls to provide higher local revenues and improve financial management so that revenues could be used more effectively. It was observed during the surveys that many residents within the NDCs and township spent an extremely high proportion of their income on food and shelter, and having to pay even a small property tax bill would cause hardship.
There were two practical approaches to this problem. One was to exempt properties below a certain value from taxation. The other was to have a minimum tax. It was the recommendation of the consultant that legislation be enacted to allow towns and NDCs the option of having a minimum level of property tax paid with labour instead of in cash. Interviews with citizens indicated that the NDC-, town -RDC relations were often politicized.
While it is useful for the RDC to know what the town and NDCs within the region are involved in, the status of the town and NDCs should entitle them to deal directly with the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development for budgetary approval. Such approvals should be routine, as the concern of the Ministry of Local Government should be format and information, not a specific budgetary decision. Previous reports have recommended that subventions from the national government be predictable, and several have proposed that the national government share revenues derived from motor vehicles with the NDCs and township.
However, a recommendation for significant increases in national government revenues to the NDCs and township is premature at this time. While one can argue that motor vehicle related revenues should be shared with the local governments, such sharing would simply require that the national government maintain all national roads, streets and bridges from other revenues and that in turn requires an overall comparison of the needs of the NDCs and township and the national government for all services.