The Knysna Council meeting of May 29, the one that would decide the budget for 2015/2016, was a mixed bag of positives and uncertainties. Most concerning is that negatives were generally bypassed and positives highlighted whereas all should have been addressed equally.
I’m going to end this blog on a positive but the fact is that the meeting began with similar hypocrisy to last year. People who never (or hardly ever) attend local government meetings were there and the politicians were dressed more smashingly than normal. All it needed to be complete in anti-austerity symbology was a big meal, like they did last year, at the ratepayers’ expense (and complete it, they did – when i left, the feasting was underway).
Mayor Georlene Wolmarans displayed arrogance when dismissing criticism as made by “ignorant and local groups.”
She wasted no time in whitewashing controversial issues with compliments e.g. the ISDF (30-year plan for Knysna), the appointment of Grant Easton as Municipal Manager and the operations of Ward Committees. She displayed an utter failure to address the problems they had presented to Knysna and treated them as if they were immaculate conceptions free of DA controversy and infighting. It’s an attitude and conduct that should be despised, that rewriting of history that pretends that leaders were great and the public weren’t damaged by their actions.
The poor state of our roads was glossed over with a generalised statement that money would be allocated to them (but with an increased budget, the good news is that that will be true). Concern over the increasing homeless people on our streets and along our estuary was ‘solved’ by the intention of speaking to other government departments about it.
Positives were hundreds of houses having been built and on the way, licencing having been granted for new waste sites in Sedgefield and Brenton, upgrade of two sports fields and Knysna Municipality having won 3 green awards.
THE BUDGET & RATE INCREASES
The budget climbed to R738-million, a 21% increase over the previous years and a 5% change on the last adjustment budget.
Wolmarans said that to believe that all areas of Knysna can achieve the same standard over 20 years isn’t based on reality. In the next few years, she stated, Knysna will be doing “less with less”.
She reiterated that much of Knysna’s retail properties are owned outside of town. Consequently, profits flowed outwards. Because of this, Knysna Municipality would apply differential rates for locally owned versus outside owned properties.
Charges for absentee property owners charge will be examined.
By July 2016, all privately owned properties will be taxed.
Tariffs would increase as follows:
- Electricity – 12.2%
- Water – 7.5%
- Sewer and Refuse – 7%
- Vacant land – 7.5%
The intention is to remove domestic property rebates. Green rebate was reduced to 10%.
Elrick van Aswegen (COPE/new Chairperson for the S80 Finance Committee):
“I’m concerned about the increase in tariffs… that are more and more becoming unaffordable to the community. There should be synergy between our increase and the economic growth of our town. It is imperative.
As COPE, we welcome the fact that we managed to decrease the operational budget from R680-million to R635-million. It is the budget of the Council, not a budget of Administration. This is how future budgets should be done. This is a budget that all parties were involved in so i have no hesitation to agree with the budget the Mayor has recommended.”
ANC Chief Whip Steven de Vries was notably absent but his ANC Councillors were quick with comments.
“From the ANC side, I’m glad to say that I’m looking at a budget that I was part of. It doesn’t matter if the DA or the ANC is in charge, the budget reflects on the Municipality.”
“We still need to approve the ISDF… and it hasn’t happened, yet again.”
“I’m reporting to the community that elected me. Indeed, in paper, the budget is glorious… but if you go out there, nothing is implemented. This isn’t a beauty contest. There was an outcry about the ISDF, in the greater community. We must not mention the ISDF whilst it is still pending.”
Mthobeli Dyanti bid a light-hearted farewell to departing DA councillors, Michelle Wasserman and Richard Dawson:
“It’s good for you to join the ANC… stay in town and pay your rates and taxes… for the roads…”
Many of the Knysna’s Moslem community attended the meeting in the belief that the mosque would be addressed but after an hour and a half, gave up and departed. Unfortunately, Councillor Litoli then made several people laugh with the insensitive joke of, “Is there a bomb squad here?”
More national and provincial money flowing into Knysna must be welcomed! Special and LOUD applause must be given to the opposition councillors who apparently worked late nights and managed to drop the operational budget by a whopping R45-million. Hopefully we’ll get more details on how that was possible soon.
View the full budget on Knysna Municipality’s website.