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City Hall implements amnesty, sets up committee to increase revenue stream

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By Bibi Khatoon

As the Georgetown City Council battles to pay its workers for the month of October and the remainder of the year, it has moved to implement another amnesty period for delinquent taxpayers. Councillors have also agreed to set up a ‘Think-Tank Committee’ to brainstorm ways of increasing the Council’s revenue stream.

After some debate, the majority of the Councillors of the city of Georgetown who attended an extraordinary meeting hosted by Mayor, Patricia Chase-Greene on Tuesday afternoon agreed to the proposals put forward by Chairman of the Finance Committee, Oscar Clarke.

The loss which the council will suffer was also taken into consideration, however, the Mayor said “the situation is bleak,” so there is little else which can be done.

The amnesty period will take effect today, November 15, 2017, and will conclude on December 15, 2017.

Workers on Monday staged a picket to protest non-payment of their October salaries. Subsequently, the council took a decision to waive $19 million in interest rates to collect $7.5 million in taxes to pay off some of what is owed.

Clarke disclosed that at the start of 2017, it was agreed that workers will be paid between the 25th and 27th of every month. It was also agreed with the Union that workers will be given a multi-year salary increase from 2016-2018. However, the council was unable to meet its obligation last month due to lack of funds.

A meeting was held with the worker’s union on Tuesday, where the Finance Chairman said the union’s cooperation was sought until the end of the year. The union also offered to assist where possible to garner revenue, Clarke said.

Meanwhile, the ‘Think-Tank Committee’ will consist of members of the Finance Committee and other Councillors who volunteer to deliberate on various ways in which the council can either collect monies owed or embark on new revenue earning initiatives.

Additionally, it was also decided that Councillors will be the last to be paid their monthly stipends of $66,000 since they must ensure staff is paid first—a proposal made by Mayor Chase-Greene.

The Finance Chairman blamed the flopping of the Parking Meter project for part of the council’s woes, noting that “when we entered into those agreements, it was on the basis of project revenues which we were anticipating as a result of certain revenues measures which were announced in the budget. Among them of course was the Parking Meter Project…The result is we have not been able to get one cent from that project this year except the couple dollars before it was suspended.”

As such he said, “that’s one reason why our income has suffered and we are unable to meet some of the projected expenditure including payment of wages and salaries on time.”

The parking meter project was implemented in January 2017 and subsequently suspended by Central Government following widespread protests surrounding the transparency of the project.

He noted that while a significant sum of the council’s income comes from rates and taxes, it has always been a case where the majority of persons pay their taxes at the start of the year and this wears off as the year goes on.

“Towards the end of the year, the council got into a habit of establishing amnesty which allows ratepayers to pay their principal sum either with some interest or none at all,” he said.

It was disclosed that the council’s income was $395, 720, 364 in January of which $157, 728,245 came from taxes. In February, the council’s revenue was $222, 066,000 of which over $168 million was from taxes. In March the Council raked $239M of which $186M was from taxes.

Out of the monies received from rates and taxes, Clarke says 68% goes towards employment costs for the council’s 800 staff.

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