(Picture: Ward 1 Councilor Levael Davis proposed a motion against the Rates Policy which allows rate increases to be backdated..)
Currently, the subject of municipal rates has become a controversial subject, especially amongst the rural dwellers of the greater Knysna area.
This after many have received notice that their properties have been rezoned from ‘agriculture’ to ‘residential’, and the new rates (in some cases increased by as much as 300%) back-dated to 2017.
Whilst many have been in communication with the municipality regarding their individual cases, the DA Caucus has decided to challenge the root cause of the controversial issue.
On Tuesday 6 August they issued the following statement.
The Knysna Democratic Alliance Caucus has delivered its Motion to amend the Knysna Municipality Property Rates Policy 2019 / 2020 so that rates and/or services cannot be backdated following an error or omission on the part of the municipality.
Paragraph 18 of the approved Rates Policy states that where the rates levied on a particular property have been incorrectly determined due to an error or omission on the part of the municipality, the rates payable shall be appropriately adjusted for the period extending from the date on which the error or omission is detected back to the date on which rates were first levied in terms of the current valuation roll.
During policy workshops held before the approval of the new budget, Councillors argued that the backdating of rates and/or services where there had been an error or omission on the part of the municipality (unless the error was that rates and/or services were payable but had not been levied) would be unfair on residents. It was agreed by the administration that this would be changed before the final Property Rates Policy was presented to Council for approval.
On 30 May 2019 when the budget-related policies were presented to Council for approval, seven of the DA Councillors (Cllrs Wolmarans, Davis, Weideman, Pofadder, Kwinana, Tyokolo and Wasserman) abstained from voting because we had not been given enough time to read the documents provided to us for approval. The DA argued that we could not approve budget-related policies when we had not had time to determine whether the changes that we had requested had in fact been made.
The majority of the Knysna Council, however, voted to approve the budget-related policies that had been presented to the Council.
It has now been established that paragraph 18 of the Property Rates Policy was approved without the requested amendment having been made.
We have become aware of instances where Knysna Municipality has corrected the status of usage of residents’ land and then relied on paragraph 18 of the approved Property Rates policy to backdate the rates for the previous two years. A resident commented that: “to add insult to injury Knysna Municipality then also charged interest on the overdue amount”.
The Democratic Alliance in Knysna believes that Paragraph 18 of the approved Rates Policy is grossly unfair and probably unlawful and has therefore delivered a motion asking that all backdated rates and/or interest charged thereon in terms of paragraph 18 of the Property Rates Policy 2019 / 2020 approved on 30 May 2019 be reversed.
The motion, proposed by Cllr Levael Davis (DA Ward Councillor for Ward 1) on behalf of the DA Knysna caucus will be submitted to the Knysna Municipal Council at its next Ordinary Council Meeting.