Jozi residents are not happy with the city’s service delivery and made their displeasure “quite clear” in the city’s recent public participation engagements.
So said Finance MMC Jolidee Matongo, who admitted he had received the message “loudly and clearly” and was therefore presenting the 2021/22, R73.3 billion budget to address municipal service failures.
“We need to view the ratepayers’ continued payment of municipal accounts as another rare opportunity given to all of us to self-correct in the execution of our duties to avoid a rates boycott in the near future that will see us eventually have no budget to present,” he said.
Amid fluctuating revenue collection rates, he said, the city is still expected to function and provide essential services.
The city’s liquidity has slightly improved from R5.4bn in 2018/2019 to R5.6bn in 2019/2020, with debt levels expected to remain below 40% of the operating revenue in 2023.
“The city remains committed to continue addressing infrastructure development needs, service delivery challenges and the urgent need to rebuild and transform Joburg during this pandemic and the budget presented supports this commitment,” he said.
The city’s funding model further relies on revenue generated from municipal services as a source of revenue – followed by grants and loans.
A concern, said Matongo, is that with new technological developments, the traditional notion of utilities as ultimate monopolies that can generate excessive revenue, is eroding.
For instance, large power users are moving away from the grid and this means that revenue generated by City Power is at risk going forward.
The rate of revenue collection is currently expressed as a percentage of annual billing. For the medium term, collection rates for the various services are an overall budgeted collection rate of 90.8% for 2021/2022, 91% for 2022/2023 and 91.1% for futher years.
The budget has provisions based on “cries” about the affordability of rates and taxes. These include:
◆ An expansion of the rebates net to cushion more elderly ratepayers through increasing the pensioner income qualifying criteria by 4.36%.
◆ The city will place up to R400m into the pockets of property owners by giving a three-month rates rebate on the first R600 000 value of a property during the hard lockdown.
◆ It also extended the expanded social package benefit period for existing beneficiaries to reduce the number of residents needing to visit customer service centres to renew their benefits.
◆ It has begun the roll-out of the improved debt rehabilitation programme for certain residents; and
◆ The city is also working out benefits for loyal customers who have continued paying during the lockdown.
“The principle is that we all need to subscribe to … how we serve the people of Joburg – using the authority entrusted upon us to make a difference – especially during the difficult time of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Matongo.