Questioning budget

Mark Schafer, chairman Bergvliet/Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association

On behalf of the Bergvliet/Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association, I wish to record the association’s objection to the City’s proposed budget on the grounds that the proposed increases and cuts are ill-considered – as is the proposed expenditure.

The association is not able to employ forensic accountants or economic commentators so our objection is phrased in general terms.

While there is understanding that municipal services need to be rendered and these expenses need to be covered, we believe that in these difficult economic times when the contributors to the City’s coffers, ratepayers, are hard-pressed to make ends meet and/or are needing to adjust their lifestyles to accommodate greater demands on their disposable income by government, against a backdrop of diminishing delivery, the current City’s proposed budget is insensitive.

While there is appreciation for the need to provide municipal services to those who cannot afford to pay and an acknowledgement that the provision of water and sanitation, cleansing and law enforcement to the poorest of the poor is to the benefit of all the inhabitants of the City, and as such must be cross subsidised, this should not result in cuts to vital-function areas of delivery such a safety and security, repairs to infrastructure, etc, while top City officials are earning more than directors-general in the province. And it is then proposed to increase these bloated salaries even more – while those in other levels of government are receiving below-inflation increases.

These cuts impact the contributors to the City’s coffers directly.

This association is of the view that all expenditure of the City needs to be urgently reviewed and that the City should limit its services and concomitant expenditure to those that it is obliged to render, in terms of legislation, and not seek to spend ratepayers’ hard-earned, post-tax income on nice-to-haves, such as electric buses, library services (a provincial and national competency), alternative water sources (a national competency), overseas fact-finding missions and conferences, permanent policy review units, social and economic development, combating unemployment, etc.

The City needs to recognise that while the aim of becoming a world-class city is laudable, we need to recognise the limitations and priorities that come with our situation and demographics.

The need is to preserve and maintain the infrastructure that we have in order that municipal services can be rendered to the residents of the City on an affordable and equitable basis.

It is not to try and solve the problems that national government should be dealing with.

The association believes the City needs to take a hard look at what services are necessities and what are luxuries and sharpen its pencil accordingly.

Ratepayers cannot afford to fund the luxuries when a large part of their income is already being spent on areas that the “failed state” has ceased to provide – such as decent education and health care, security, affordable electricity, safe public transport, etc.