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MUNICIPAL BUDGET

Knysna community irate over proposed hikes – 33% for rates, 18% for electricity

Knysna community irate over proposed hikes – 33% for rates, 18% for electricity
Knysna and its waterfront area. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Councillors and businesses are ‘exceptionally irate’ about proposed increases in Knysna’s 2023/2024 budget cycle, which could see municipal rates increase across the board for services such as water, refuse removal and electricity.

‘I think there’s huge pressure on the municipality to amend the budget,” said Knysna ward councillor Sharon Sabbagh about plans by the municipality to increase the tariffs.

The municipality tabled its 2023/2024 medium-term expenditure framework budget report for council consideration at a meeting on Friday, 31 March. While residents have until Friday, 19 May to comment on the planned increases, councillors and the business chamber are not happy and fear the increases could cause ratepayers to leave, which could increase unemployment in the municipality.

“They are exceptionally irate,” said Sabbagh to Daily Maverick ahead of the public comments closing. Sabbagh is the ward councillor for Ward 9, one of the wealthiest areas in Knysna, which she says, along with Ward 10, contributes the highest revenue from rates. The two wards include Knysna Heights, Thesen Island, the Waterfront, the CBD and the industrial area. 

Sabbagh said that while the proposed electricity price increase was 18.65%, the biggest concern was that of property rates potentially increasing by 33%, according to the Knysna Business Chamber. Sabbagh told Daily Maverick retirees in the area would battle to pay the increase, and this could lead to them laying off employees such as domestic workers.

She started an online petition opposing the increases, which has garnered more than 4,000 signatures.

The public comment period for the budget closes on Friday, 19 May, with the final budget expected to be passed before 30 June. It will come into effect on 1 July.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde — who was born in Knysna — was in the area campaigning with Sabbagh. Winde told the Knysna-Plett Herald the increases “will have a direct impact on household income, which will affect many jobs”.

The Greater Knysna Business Chamber has objected to the increases and described them as “totally unrealistic”. In their objection, they said Knysna ratepayers had been battered by Covid-19, load shedding and high inflation.

“This budget will exacerbate business closures and increase the already high unemployment in our town,” the objection read.

On the issue of property rates specifically, the business chamber said the potential 33% increase was “not acceptable” as the area was a tourist destination with many small and informal establishments offering tourist accommodation.

“Their individual cases are very different and the municipality needs to ensure that it does not charge excessive rates that destroy the business, and diminish the accommodation that can be provided to tourists,” read the objection.

Other increases include 9% for water, 6% for refuse removal and 5.3% for sanitation.

The communications manager for the municipality, Christopher Bezuidenhout, said: “The municipality has a well-established public participation process that must take place before the budget is finalised in May. This process provides an opportunity for all members of the public to submit their comments, suggestions and objections regarding the budget. The municipality is committed to reviewing all submissions received during this process.”

He said the municipality would not engage in discussions or respond to comments about the budget through the media, “to ensure that the public participation process remains open and fair and that all feedback is considered equally”. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • 33% rates increase may be the average increase… but the scary thing is that some 30% of properties had a valuation decrease, and a lot of increases were well over 100%. The objection process is complicated in that one is supposed to do a market sales analysis and compare that to one’s own property. The average ratepayer has no clue what the valuation is all about, and would not know how to file a valid objection. 1500 odd filed objections is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • andrew farrer says:

    we need to move to a Ranked Choice Voting system. If you can’t win a single ward, you shouldn’t get PR councillors. This would get rid of most of these ridiculous nut job “political parties” who continually flip flop to where they can get the biggest score.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    The actual rates % in the rand is unchanged. It’s unlikely then that the council has announced an increase of 33%, though that may be the prospect facing some properties. We see it happening too in Johannesburg where, in my area anyway, the new valuations are high compared to recent sales, and see to be very arbitrary.

    This article should read “some councillors are exceptionally irate”. A majority of council would have had to approve the budget, so how irate can most of them actually be?

  • Colleen Harding says:

    Totally unacceptable from the owners of Knysna Manor House who have battled through tough years including Covid the keep our business open and keep our longstanding staff employed.

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