THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC), which ran a stand-still budget for three years, has increased charges by 5% across the board, as it seeks to improve water supplies as part of a $212 million budget for 2019.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
While the standstill budget was meant to cushion ratepayers, who for years have been struggling to pay rates and service charges in a stagnant economy, rising operational costs and inflation have forced the city fathers to raise tariffs.
Presenting the budget yesterday to the local business community, council financial director Kimpton Ndimande said in crafting the budget, they took into consideration economic challenges affecting the nation such as the rising inflation.
He said the 2019 revenue budget had been pegged at $117 million, while the capital budget was at $96 million, giving a total of $212 million.
Ndimande said council’s top priority was investing in water and sewage reticulation infrastructure, servicing of new areas, maintenance of cemeteries and refurbishing of council properties, among others.
“So, we looked at the needs of the city and then we looked at the factors that will then help us craft that budget and these are the factors. Officially, the year-on-year inflation rate is averaged at 4,29% and then interests rates — because we need to borrow for capital expenditure — is averagely at 12%. And also the problems that are bedevilling the country such as the liquidity crunch,” Ndimande said.
“So, we have increased our fixed charges generally by 5%. It’s our prayer to you that you approve this budget because we believe it’s a budget that has considered the difficulties that we have out there.
“We would have actually proposed much bigger increase because you and I know that our economic situation is deteriorating … and we want you to enjoy the services of the city. So that’s why we have increased our charges to you, but you can see they are quite marginal.”
Ndimande said they took into consideration vulnerable groups and they were aware that industry and commerce was on its knees, “but we are also very optimistic that in this country, things will improve”.
He said, generally, local authorities were performing poorly, with most of them being technically insolvent.
“We all remember the catastrophic write-off that happened in 2013. We are still reeling under its effects,” he said.
“We are cognisant of the fact that we need to improve our revenue generation … and we all aware that revenue inflow into the city is going down because of the economic meltdown that we are facing in our country.”
Zanu PF wrote off residents’ debts to local authorities ahead of the July 2013 general elections, crippling council operations.
The country’s 92 local authorities were at that time owed over $2 billion in unpaid rates and bills.
The council wants to construct a clinic in Cowdray Park to cater for the suburb’s growing population as well as purchase equipment for other clinics around the city.
The business community adopted the budget.
Town clerk Christopher Dube said it was possible the council could request a supplementary budget if the economic situation continues to worsen.