As its cash flow issues continue, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) decided at a financial meeting on Thursday to start selling properties that are heavily in arrears on rates.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Town Clerk Royston King said, “The reason why the council is doing this is because we have been… reaching out to property owners, particularly those who have been in default and we have been pleading with them to come in and settle their accounts and many of them, notwithstanding the fact that we have been giving amnesties…, have not come in to settle their accounts.”
He also explained that some of the defaulters have not paid any rates to the M&CC for more than 30 years, and it was unbelievable that persons were still not clearing their debts, given that the rates have not been increased for some two decades.
“Some people are deliberately neglecting their civic responsibilities and not honouring their obligations to the city,” King noted. He said the council was cash strapped and needed the money to get on with the work and services it was tasked with completing.
“Many citizens have applauded and continue to applaud us about the condition of the city, the positive and clean condition of the city but it is costing us money. Money that we really don’t have and we are asking property owners to come in and pay their rates,” King added, while stating that the council is strongly encouraging other property owners who are in default to visit the M&CC and pay their debts so the city could have money in its coffers to carry out the vital municipal services it us expected to provide under the law.
According to King, there are some 14 properties around the city on the list that collectively owe more than $7 billion and they have already received judgement from the courts on each of the matters.
He said that even after receiving judgement, the council continued to reach out to the property owners to no avail. “We have our revenue investigators visiting the premises, we have phoned them and sent requests from the Mayor’s Office, the Town Clerk’s Office, all to no avail. Some promise they will come in and never show up and so we have to move to do something…,” King said.
King also explained that the courts have been passing transports without doing necessary verification that the taxes on the properties were paid. He added that before the transports are passed, the person who is selling should submit a certificate of compliance from the M&CC, showing that all rates were paid. “We found that some of these buildings were sold but did not pass through the council and individuals have no compliance certifications,” King said, while pointing out that the former New Building Society building, on Avenue of the Republic, which is now being occupied by the Deeds Registry, is one example of such.
He also explained that a letter was written to Registrar of Deeds Zanna Frank to ensure that transports are not changed without compliance and clearance from the MCC.
According to King, some of the properties that the city will be taking action against are Correia’s Enterprises Ltd at 36 Albouys Street and Punt Trench, Albouystown, which was sold to NICIL, and owes in excess of $1.1 billion; the old milk plant in Kingston, which owes some $396 million; Wraylite Engineering Company in North Ruimveldt, which owes some $133 million and Ashmin’s Trading, which owes some $9 million.