Another rates policy document available

THABAZIMBI – In what seems to be a very confusing situation, another rates policy document was made available to the public for public comment. This document was distributed by the council at the IDP (Integrated Development Plan) meetings which were held in the district during January and February.
One or two previous documents were also made available to the public, but was never approved by the council, which makes the implementation of new rates unprocedural. For this reason the new rates have not been levied by the municipality yet, and new payers such as the farmers have not paid any property tax.
According to the national regulation all farmers were supposed to start paying taxes in the 2008/9 financial year which started on 1 July last year. Thabazimbi is the last remaining municipality which has not started implementing rates based on the market value of properties in all of the Waterberg Municipality.
The new draft rates policy is open for public comments until the end of April and all comments must be submitted in written form and must state which organization’s view point is represented.
The most important recommendation in the tax policy is the acknowledgement that “major shocks to ratepayers when moving from a site rating system to a market value system” should be prevented and that the “ability of the ratepayers to pay for their total municipal services” must be taken into consideration.
It also states that “the Municipality will endeavour to limit the annual increase in revenue from the property rates to the increase in the consumer price index (CPI)… except when the IDP (Integrated Development Plan) … provides for a greater increase”. It must be hoped that this provision does not leave a backdoor wide open.
Rebates will be instituted in cases where the hike in property tax is high due to the change of system (from site rating to total value of property). Any increase above 40% will be phased in over four years commencing July 2008. The annual increases are additional to this.
A range of rebates are applicable to agricultural land. Farmers, however, do not automatically quality for the rebates, but must apply for them. According to the draft rates policy, applications had to be submitted before 30 September 2008, a virtual impossibility since the draft document was only made available in February this year and has not been approved yet.
Where the following services are not provided by the municipality, farmers can qualify for rebates: road maintenance (10%), sewerage (10%), electricity (10%), water (20%) and refuse collection (10%). Farmers who provide housing for employees can get another 10% rebate, farmers who are registered ratepayers with SARS 5%, farmers registered for VAT with SARS 5% and farmers who have registered farm workers with the UIF 5%. To quality for the last 3 rebates proof must be supplied.
Agricultural land used for game farming, game hunting or eco-tourism will also qualify for the abovementioned reductions after the portion with the improvements thereon (such as slaughter facilities, cold storage areas, lapas, lodges and other forms of accommodation) has been deducted. The portion deducted will be fully rated.
Properties exempted from paying taxes include those belonging to health facilities, amateur sport facilities, schools, indigents (the poor), cultural facilities, residential properties below R30 000, public service facilities, registered welfare institutions, cemeteries and crematoriums.
According to the document the owner of land is the principal ratepayer, but where the owner fails to pay the property tax may be recovered from the tenant,  occupier or agent of  the property.
A valuation roll for all rateable properties will be prepared every four years, and supplementary valuations will be undertaken on an ongoing basis and amendments will be made once  a year.
The document is not clear on the issue of whether only a single rate will apply to all categories (such as residential, business, industrial, mine and agricultural properties) or whether different rates will be implemented.
The rate itself has not been approved yet.
The property tax tariff is one issue which does not form part of the rates policy document. An indication of what this figure might be, will be in the proposed municipal budget, which will be open for public comment during April and May this year. The budget must be approved by the end of May.
Last year a tariff of R0,0085/R was decided on, but it was never implemented and ratepayers have been granted leave to pay the “old” rate as was levied during the first part of 2008. Since then a much lower rate of R0,00175 was negotiated for by the Chairman’s Forum and Thabazimbi Ratepayers’ Association.
Copies of the rates policy document are available at the Thabazimbi, Regorogile, Northam, Leeupoort and Rooiberg municipal offices, as well as at community service centres and at the Municipality’s website. For any further enquiries Johannes Matlou at the municipal offices can be contacted on 014 777 1525 X 137.