Expenses up, revenue stagnant

City Council Round Up by Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
December 28, 1999

Property owners could be assured that there will be no increase in their rates for the year 2000. This is because the rates on properties in Georgetown have been fixed for 1997 to 2001.

But while the City Council will not be getting any additional revenue from property owners for the next year, it is faced with a 20% increase in wages and salaries for workers which was recently negotiated. Employment costs now stand at about 60% of expenditure.

According to a working document which should have been in the hands of councillors, the markets' revenues for 1999 has been estimated at about $88 million. However, expenditure stands at $118 million with employment and security costs reaching $50 million and $51 million respectively.

Among the proposals for rectifying the situation are increasing stall rents, reducing expenditure for employment, introducing new technology and privatisation. The council is also spending more money than it is receiving from the cemetery. Revenue for 1999 stands at $6 million while expenditure is $34 million.

The document suggests that the maintenance contract for the entire cemetery be advertised and a contract fee be budgeted for year 2000 as well as an increase in fees for burial and supporting services. The construction of a crematorium next year is also on the cards.

Councillors are also asked to review the administrative sections within the municipality for the purpose of reducing employment costs. The sections include the Mayor's office, the Public Relations Department, the Town Clerk's office, the Warden Corps as well as the Personnel Department.

Consideration is be given to the setting up of a legal department which would deal more effectively with court issues. The chairman of the Council's Finance Committee, Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, has identified January 20, 2000 as the date when he will be presenting the City Council's budget to the public.

Properties dispute
The government and the Council are still at loggerheads over the amount of rates owing to City Hall. The government is disclaiming ownership of many of the properties which are included on the council's list.

A statement by the Chief Regional Development Officer reveals that after the first phase of the verification process, some $181,446,588 is now available to be handed over to City Hall.

However, City Hall is claiming in excess of $600 million in rates and taxes that is owed to them by the government.

The report on the first phase of the investigations by the officer sets out, among other things, a list of properties owned by private individuals, companies, etc.

Among these are the open space used by City Hall as a vehicle park, 22 government apartments which were sold and handed over to individuals in 1995 and several properties which were sold to business companies, a well-known family as well as individual businessmen.

It was noted that among the properties deleted by City Hall from its original list demanding back rates and interests, were the former Rice Bowl Restaurant on Robb Street and the Guyana National Service building on Regent and Bourda Streets now occupied by the City Constabulary.

Mayor Hamilton Green has called for the setting up of a rating appeals panel to settle disputes which may arise between the Council and owners of properties in the city.

Unfinished business
***What has happened to the clean-up campaign in Alberttown which was aimed at cleaning and clearing all drains and parapets? Flooding is still taking place in some areas. Why is it that this Council initiates programmes with much fanfare and public statements and a few weeks later the bubble bursts and the main players disappear only to come out again on yet another project which is doomed to failure.

***Mayor Green has admitted his embarrassment over the repair and repainting works which were to be carried out within a certain time on the Sea Wall Bandstand.

***Will the citizens of Georgetown together with their relatives and friends like old times be able to find suitable accommodations and the necessary facilities to gather somewhere in the vicinity of the Stabroek Market or someplace identified by the Council in the city to welcome the year 2000.

***I am looking forward to one of the 30 Councillors including the `Chief Citizen' spearheading a resolution aimed at taking back the city's pavement from the vendors.

A bright and rewarding 2000.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples