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​Ratepayers hold the City to account

Ratepayers in Johannesburg suburbs such as Gallo Manor, Morningside and Woodmead want the City to consider altering its rebate policy relating to property in excess of R2 million. 
At present, they say, the City takes into account the age of the ratepayer and the value of the property when determining a rebate.

Speaking at a Property Rates Policy Review meeting at the Ernest Ullman Recreational Centre in Gallo Manor on Monday night, the residents said they wanted the City to disregard the age of the property owner and only consider the value of the property when determining a rebate.

The residents also wanted clarity on what the money collected for rates was used for.

“There needs to be transparency in this regard otherwise the process has the potential to open itself up to all manner of suspicion,” said an elderly ratepayer, who did not give his name.

Monday night’s meeting was chaired by Ward 109 Councillor Lilian Kekana. Veli Hlophe, the head of the City’s Property Rates Division, gave a detailed presentation on the rationale the City applied when determining rates.

“We take into account certain factors when we evaluate a property. Not only do we look at the size of the property, but we also assess external factors such as the road infrastructure, street lighting and whether the area is exclusively residential or of mixed-use,” said Hlophe.

The issue of charging rates on vacant properties also came up during the deliberations.

The City has since the beginning of January been holding Property Rates Policy Review meetings in all its regions to ensure that properties are rated in an equitable and affordable manner. This – the first of two rounds of an extensive public consultation process – ends on Wednesday February 25 with another policy review meeting at Altrec Hall in Alexandra, also in Region E.

The second round will take place in April and May during which time the new proposals and feedback will be incorporated into the draft document and presented to the public for comment.

Residents have, however, until February 27 to make their comments on the current policy. They can do so via the City’s website, customer service centres or to Rates Comment

The consultation visits are conducted annually, and affords the City an idea of what the residents feel about their rates. This is meant to avoid a situation of misunderstanding, says Hlophe.