BULAWAYO residents overwhelmingly endorsed the local authority’s proposed 4% rate increase in next year’s budget.
Residents were given an option between the increase and maintaining the present rates, but at the cost of deteriorating service delivery and they chose the latter. Yesterday, the Bulawayo City Council’s finance and economic development committee chairperson James Sithole tabled the budget proposal during a full special council, which was subsequently passed by councillors.
Sithole said a majority of residents were in favour of slightly higher rates.
“Of the 29 wards, 21 accepted the 4% increase proposal, seven wards opted for a standstill budget and one ward indicated they will go with the majority,” he explained.
“The 4% increase, which balances the budget at $107,2 million, was adopted as the proposed budget.
“The council, therefore, is recommending a marginal increase in tariffs of 4% with effect from January 1 2015.
“While the proposed increase will mean ratepayers paying more for services, it is intended to improve service delivery. Council will not only look at increasing tariffs as a way of improving service delivery but will also consider cutting costs by putting in place measures that enable efficiency.”
According to the breakdown, of the $158 million, revenue will account for $107 million, while the capital budget is pegged at $50 million.
Sithole said in coming up with budget estimates council took into account the need to improve service delivery in line with ZimAsset, reindustrialisation efforts, high unemployment, liquidity crunch and vulnerable groups in the city.
“The major challenge faced during the preparation of the 2015 budget was how the budget would be financed given that the maximum income council can raise at current tariffs charge would be $102,6 million against the proposed budgeted expenditure of $107,2 million,” he said.
However, Sithole expressed concern that residents were not settling their bills and as of August this year, the authority was owed $84,7m.
According to the Urban Councils Act, councils will now have to submit the budget to the Local Government ministry for consideration.
The ministry reserves the right to reject the budget.
The local authority last year announced a $114 million budget for 2014, but in April the government ordered municipalities to slash it by $10 million.
The city lost $47 million after the government ordered State institutions and local authorities to write off debts accrued by residents from February 2009 to the end of June 2013.