In a bid to recover some $1.1 billion in outstanding rates owed by citizens and businesses, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) will launch ‘Operation Rates Recovery’ next month targeting Kingston, North Cummingsburg, South Cummingsburg and Lacytown.
According to Town Clerk Royston King, the objective of the operation which starts on April 3, is to “recover outstanding amounts owed to the council by property owners.”
According to King, some $4 billion is owed to the municipality and the operation, which is expected to last the entire month of April, should see it recovering $1 billion.
“The council needs every cent to provide vital municipal services to local neighbourhoods including street lighting, drainage, roads, environmental and public health services, cemeteries, open spaces, parks and gardens and a host of others,” King said.
The operation will include a help desk at City Hall which persons from the named areas can visit to get information with regard to rates they might owe and be advised on the best course of action in terms of repayment.
Telephone calls, visits to businesses and residents by council officers and the issuing of special letters to property owners will also be a part of operation, along with legal proceedings against persons who continue to ignore the city’s requests.
“Council’s records show that some property owners have not paid rates as far back as ten years ago. This situation is aggravated by the fact that there has been no valuation of city properties for about 20 years. Also, many owners have changed the use of their buildings from residential to commercial, but continue to pay residential rates to the council,” King explained. He pointed out that there have also been changes in the demographics, consumption patterns and waste generated by residents of the city which greatly affect expenditure and the way the council organizes its specific and general operations.
“This situation is becoming unsustainable and unless the council acts now it would be hard-pressed to continue to provide even basic services at current levels,” King added, while stating that the M&CC is urging all property owners to settle all of their outstanding accounts with its Treasurer’s Department to avoid legal proceedings being brought against them.
Persons who are unable to pay their rates can visit the help desk where they can discuss special payment plants.
“The council remains firmly committed to providing a clean, healthy and safe city… However, it needs the support of all its property owners to pay their rates…,” King said.
Last week, Director of Sport Christopher Jones presented the council with a cheque for $30 million to settle outstanding debts associated with properties such the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall and Gymnas-ium along with others that fall under his remit.