City Council projects $246M deficit in 2014; begs Gov’t intervention

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Chairman of the Finance Committee, Junior Garrett.
Chairman of the Finance Committee, Junior Garrett.

By Kurt Campbell

[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Mayor and City Council of Georgetown, according to projections, is poised to rake in over $2.3B in revenue in 2014. However, Chairman of the Finance Committee Junior Garrett, while presenting the Council’s budget for 2014 said the Council’s projected expenditure for the year is estimated at $2.5B; which amounts to an adverse variance of over $246M.

According to Garrett, a major area of expenditure apart from solid waste management, drainage and market maintenance is the payment of salaries and wages, which utilizes some 61% of the total revenue collection.

He also highlighted a hefty $20M electricity bill which the Council is burdened with on a monthly basis. Of this $20M, $15M is said to be for street lighting, another $3.3M for pumps and a mere $2M for the electricity provided to City Hall itself.

The Finance Committee Chairman identified the department with the biggest adverse variance, when comparing its revenue to its expenditure as the City Engineers Department.

Garrettt reminded that rates and taxes in the city have not been increased over the last 16 years which has inevitably limited the Council’s ability to provide services needed.

“Unlike GPL, GT&T and GWI we have no automatic turn off system, we have to go to the courts and to be honest the city hands are tied,” he added.

Garrett recognized the interventions by the Government in recent years to assist the Council in the provision of services to citizens. In this regard he has called on the administration to go beyond financial assistance in order to help the Council make the city a better place.

He recommended that the Council be given the ability to reclaim what he said was millions in Value Added Tax (VAT) through VAT exemptions.  Among his recommendations also is for a Municipal Judge to be appointed to prosecute those who owe millions to the Council.

There were also calls for increased subvention to the Council and speeding evaluations of buildings which have changed its status from residential to commercial all in the effort of raking in more resources.

These proposals by Garrett were back by several Councilors and the Mayor himself. According to City Mayor Hamilton Green, the budget must be seen in its widest context and went on in his usual fashion of accusing the administration of suffocating the municipality with its policies.

He said the budget will fail and is likely to be an exercise in futility unless the executors are competent and qualified, making clear reference to Town clerk Carol Sooba.

He underscored the need for the Council and the Administration to communicate and reach mutual conclusions in the interest of the city.

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