City Hall grants amnesty for tax defaulters

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…Finances Committee proposes cutting staff to save money

A decision has been taken by the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown (M&CC) to offer a one-month amnesty period to defaulting ratepayers on the accumulated interest on unpaid property rates. In addition, Chairman of the Finance Committee Oscar Clarke suggested that the municipality consider downsizing its number of staff since salaries account for 68 per cent of the Council’s revenue.
The option of amnesty was flouted so that the Council could accumulate monies to pay staff members for the months of October, November and December. The amnesty period runs from November 15 until December 15.
Clarke disclosed that at the start of 2017, it was agreed that workers will be paid between the 25th and 27th of every month and that workers will be given a multiyear salary increase from 2016-2018. However, the Council was unable to meet its obligation last month due to lack of funds.
The Chairman suggested that as it moves into the New Year, the Council should begin looking to reduce its 800 staff. He noted that the current financial state will remain if the Council continues to pay 68 per cent of its revenue for staffing. He noted that the Mayor and City Council will have to undertake a review of the entire staff structure in 2018 and this was communicated to the union, adding that the workers of the Council are paid higher than those in the public service.
“We will have to discuss with them (union) the way forward in terms of reducing the number of people we have on staff…it’s not that we don’t think the Council needs the workers, the Council need the workers but the Council got to get money to pay the workers…I can make reference to a couple of positions, for example an Office Assistant here gets $74,000 per month, the Government pays about $60,000 now…Clerk 2 General is $90,266 per month, the accountant gets $184,966 as opposed what the Accountant in the public service gets, maybe $109-$110,000,” he informed.
In addition to high salaries, Clarke told the Councillors that City Hall has about 260 pensioners and that number is rapidly increasing since every year workers are going into retirement. However, Mayor Patricia Chase Green said that the City is not in the habit of putting families on the breadline and a number of Councillors agreed to it.
“If you cut staff then a number of families are going to be put on the breadline… we are in a crisis and we have to deal with it,” she said.

‘Think-tank Committee’

In order to look at ways to broaden and increase the Council’s revenue base, the M&CC decided to formulate a new committee to brainstorm ways of increasing revenue stream. After some debate, the majority of the Councillors agreed to the proposals.
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. Sitting on the committee are Councillors Monica Thomas, Akeem Peter, Jameel Rasul, Phillip Smith and James Samuels.

Councillor Clarke revealed 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 $239 million of which $186 million was from taxes.

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