City’s budget burden

Some have accused the City of Cape Town of forcing Cape Town residents to pay for the drought.

The City wants to hit you with a new R50-plus monthly levy for your water meter, before it reaches into your pocket for above-inflation increases to municipal services, including a 27% hike in water tariffs.

And its electricity department wants to move domestic customers to the home-user tariff where owners of homes valued above
R1 million have to pay a R150 monthly service charge.

Mayor Patricia de Lille’s proposed R49.1 billion budget for the 2018/2019 financial year proposes increases of 26.9% for water and sanitation, 7.2% for rates, 8.1% for electricity and 5.7% for refuse.

Tabled at a full council sitting on Wednesday March 28 it has a R39.8 billion operating budget and R9.2 billion capital expenditure.

The water-meter levy is based on the size of the pipe feeding water to homes and starts at R56 a month for 15mm up to R2 500 for a maximum-sized pipe of 300mm.

Residents have until Friday May 4 to comment on the draft budget.

Tokai resident Rodney Manicom says it is an attack by the DA-led City of Cape Town on residents.

He says many older residents are non salaried, pensioners whose income has not kept up with inflation.

“On the other hand, the City has over a protracted period jacked up rates, water and electricity costs above inflation, making it difficult for these people to live on their pensions. They also live in homes that were bought many years ago and might have high values because of the area they stay in, but this does not make them wealthy.”

Mr Manicom said the City assumed the value of a house was linked to a person’s disposable income, but that wasn’t the case.

The City had failed to consider the 1% increase in VAT and rising fuel prices had on disposable income. Also the electricity price increase for Cape Town is higher than the recommended increase published by the National Energy Regulator (NERSA). He wants to know why.

“And why is water going up again? We have had several increases over the past year and a massive increase in February 2018. Why are rates going up above inflation? The City must implement operational efficiencies to enable a below inflation increase in rates.”

Mr Manicom said water usage had been halved which meant that the income generated from water tariffs to the City had also been halved.

“The same thing happened not so long ago when we had the electricity crisis. Now the City is having to implement drastic measures to supplement its income. As per usual, it seems the bulk of the burden is going to the middle classes as well as to the small business sector,” he said.

Plumstead pensioner Ursula Schenker says the proposed increases are ludicrous.

“The 6B water restriction penalties were in violation of the constitution and affected residents, as it was increased in excess of 500% one month ago, and now the new increases are also in violation of the constitution which should ensure services to communities in a sustainable manner,” she said.

“Like so many elderly, I bought my house and paid R220 000 about 20 years ago, and because the municipal valuations roll now values it at R1.3m and I’m expected to pay rates and services on this amount.

“At 65 I’m a senior and because of the municipality’s means test I do not qualify for a rebate,” she said.

Jean Adams lives with her daughter in a rented flat in Plumstead and although the water is included in the rent she is worried as her electricity tariff takes up the bulk of her SASSA grant.

“Where is it going to end?” she asksCape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Janine Myburgh says Capetonians are paying a high price for the City’s lack of preparation for the drought.

She said the increases the City wants to charge for its services come after a decade of water tariff increases well above the inflation rate, and in some cases double the consumer price index.

However, she says that it is good news that R1.4 billion will be spent on developing aquifers and upgrading treatment plants to recycle more water.

Sandra Dickson, one of the founders of activist group Stop COCT (City of Cape Town), says if the water tariff is approved the already steep Level 6B water tariff increases will grow by another 26.96%.

“The current Level 6B increases represented a 500% plus increase in water tariffs. These new increases effective from 1 July will add a further 83% increase to your water bill,” said Ms Dickson.

In her speech, Ms De Lille said properties valued between R150 000 and
R400 000 all receive 10 500 litres of free water.

The Bergvliet/Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association (BMRA) and the Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA) said they would be discussing the draft budget at a meeting on Thursday April 19 and did not want to comment before that.

Ms Myburgh says the budget made no mention of any council plans to reduce costs or economise on operating costs.