With the Anna Regina Town Council on course to receive less than half of the $86 million in rates and taxes it projected to collect this year, Town Clerk Diane Critchlow believes that the setting up of a municipal court is among the solutions to get defaulters to pay.
Critchlow told Stabroek News on Wednesday that the collection projected rates and taxes has been a persistent issue for the municipality, which depends on these funds to fulfill its major responsibilities. Outside of the rates and taxes collected, the town has received $9 million in subventions from central government for works to roads, drains and culverts.
The Town Council’s annual budget, Critchlow explained, is constructed based on the amount of rates and taxes which the municipality is supposed to collect. But deficiencies in the systems of collection often prevent them from collecting even half of the projected amounts.
This year is a typical example as the municipality has only collected $21 million so far as the end of the seventh month of the year approaches.
Critchlow said that many persons are intentionally delinquent and added that the existing process used by the municipality to make persons pay is too drawn out and inefficient.
She said that calls have been made by the municipality for some time the setting up of a Municipal Court. Such a body, Critchlow explained, would deal specifically with persons who are delinquent in the payment of their rates and taxes. She also said that the municipality is calling for the reimplementation of a set of actions which used to be employed.
In the past, Critchlow noted, the municipality was allowed to sell the property of defaulters to recoup whatever taxes it was owed. This method of recouping owed amounts, however, has been abandoned and Critchlow said the Town Council has been calling for the system to be re-implemented.
She also said that many buildings desperately need revaluing, since many property owners are paying ridiculously low rates relative to the size of their buildings and the operations which these building are involved in.
Critchlow said that there are currently cases where persons are paying as little as $200 or $400 in rates and taxes, annually.
Once reforms are in place, Critchlow suggested the municipality would be in a much better position to collect its projected revenue and probably more, and by extension, complete all of the activities it would have budgeted for.
She said though, the Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud has advised the municipality to first work on improving the efficiency with which they collects rates and taxes.