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Valuation roll chaos – EGGF prepares to declare dispute

The confusion surrounding Emakhazeni Local Municipality’s (ELM) much-disputed new property valuation roll continues. In a document riddled with mistakes, inaccuracies and omissions, hundreds of ELM residents have taken up the cudgels with municipal bosses – despite the fact that the deadline for submission of objections has passed. Of serious concern, however, are the large number of ELM residents who, seemingly, do not fully understand the severe financial impact of the higher rates they are required to pay and have not challenged the arbitrary new amounts which have unceremoniously been foisted upon them.
The situation has now escalated to the point that the Emakhazeni Good Governance Forum (EGGF) are, on behalf of the combined ratepayers and business owners of the four towns within ELM boundaries, on the verge of formally declaring a dispute with ELM. This would, in essence, mean that all affected persons who are in agreement with EGGF recommendations would immediately stop paying rates entirely until such time as the matter is placed on a legal footing. This, of course, would be a devastating blow to ELM’s already shaky finances. Peter St. Clair, EGGF Chairman, commented: “Due to the lack of any form of suitable response from ELM over an extended period on this serious issue, we feel that we are left with little other choice but to take this drastic step. Hopefully, this will then force ELM to rectify matters and resolve the problem.”
THG has received the following communication from the EGGF and publishes it verbatim herewith in an attempt to warn affected residents of the serious implications of flawed valuation roll:
Property values trebled.....   Rates bills quadrupled.... What the Heck is going on?
Earlier in 2014, the EGGF pointed out a number of irregularities to Emakhazeni Local Municipality regarding the Valuation Roll.  Discussions continued and eventually a new Valuation Roll was prepared – funded by Nkangala District Municipality - as ELM couldn’t afford to pay. So, an independent valuer was appointed and the results of their work can be seen on the ELM website ( Wow ! What a difference in values to the Roll introduced in 2009. In many cases, the ‘market value’ of the houses, businesses, farms etc. has increased three-fold - but it seems so few people are aware of this. Objections to the new valuations closed on 30 September with about 500 being lodged by this date. Just 500 of the 13,722 households (census 2011) in Emakhazeni! OK, so not all of these households fall within the ‘significant change’ band but many do and it seems as though the lack of interest may well come and bite them at a later stage. Further, the Municipal Property Rates Act (2004) clearly states that a Valuation Roll has a duration of four years and can ONLY be extended, by permission of the MEC, for a further period of one year – which happened. As the Valuation Roll which ELM have already implemented is still, effectively, in its draft stage (objections must be attended to before it can be implemented) and, as the Act states that it can only come into effect on 1st July in any year, we are advised that the Roll can, accordingly, only come into effect on 1 July 2015 – and that assumes that all the other legal irregularities we have pointed out to ELM are resolved !
Then, contrary to the advice give to them by EGGF, and contrary to National Treasury guidelines, ELM decided they would use the same tariffs as were in effect last year.    Treasury guidelines are that any increase in actual rates charged to ratepayers should not significantly exceed CPI and any municipality wishing to charge higher rates must make a case to Treasury for approval before such rates can be implemented. Well, that just hasn’t happened and in many cases the rates accounts sent out by ELM from July onwards have been double, treble or even quadruple what was being billed in June.
We’ve had meetings with ELM on these problems but little has transpired and even a provincial representative from Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs ( the body responsible for ensuring municipalities function legally and properly) who attended the last meeting has failed to respond to these problems and our strong request that an urgent meeting to discuss the irregularities be convened. We’ve also requested intervention from the Ministers of Finance and Co-operative Governance and the Auditor General and, at the time of going to press, we still await their response.

We recognise that ELM cannot function without income so our position has been, and remains, that ratepayers should only pay rates at the level they were paying in June this year until this whole sorry mess has been resolved.