Massive retrenchment looms at City Hall

by Gwen Evelyn
Guyana Chronicle
March 30, 2000

MASSIVE retrenchment at the City Council looms this week as the cash strapped authority works to complete its annual budget by weekend.

Mayor Hamilton Green at a press conference Tuesday said that there is also the choice to close, or drastically cut, key services provided by the Council to Georgetown.

He said that City Hall may have to close its day care and maternal and child welfare centres and reduce garbage collection and disposal. The body may also have to ponder reducing the number of Constables currently employed.

It was earlier mentioned that the day care and maternal and child welfare centres this year require $100M for management and operation.

Curtailing services could also affect other services such as those provided by the Public Health Department and Meat and Food Inspectorate.

Commenting on Central Government's budget and its effects on the City, Green told the media that Government has allocated $241M for payment of rates and taxes this year.

However, Government owes far more than this, Green lamented. According to him, the Government owed City Hall hundreds of millions of dollars and that the allocated sum of $241M is not sufficient. And he said that the City Council administration has met with the Government on a few occasions and the latter expressed genuine concerns for the City and its problems. However, these concerns are not demonstrated in concrete ways. It seems, he said, that the City is taken for granted or some persons do not care if it is ruined.

According to Green, the budget in some ways makes the City Council's operations more difficult. He cited the Constabulary as one example. Green explained that the City Council has a provisional agreement to increase the salaries of its law enforcers whenever the disciplined services get pay hikes.

"One cannot afford to take the urban centre for granted," Green said.

"We are dismayed, disappointed...," Green said, adding later that Georgetown is in a "serious crisis".

He has asked Councillors to be on stand-by over the next few days to help make final decisions for the budget. Hard decisions will have to be made, and Councillors may have to vote on them, he said.

The City Council has been calling on Central Government for a per centavo of the environmental tax it collects on containers and wrappings on imported items. City Hall, which is required to dispose of them, gets nothing, officials of the Council have explained time and again.

City Hall also wants to be considered either for its own lottery or a part of the funds coming in from the Guyana Lottery Company.

Other ideas put forward by the City Council as possible sources of finance are: a fuel tax; a vehicle parking toll; and part of the licence and registration fees for vehicles using the City's roadways.