Kouga Council approves R 1 Billion Budget

The DA led Kouga Municipality’s budget and tariffs for the 2021/2022 financial year, starting July 1, were approved unanimously by Council on Wednesday, May 31.

This despite challenges such as maintaining an acceptable employee related cost ratio, curtailing electricity and water losses at acceptable levels and increases cost associated with bulk electricity purchases.

Kouga Executive Mayor, Horatio Hendricks, said that every effort had been made to ensure that the budget was pro poor and fully funded.

“The tabling of our budget for the new financial year comes at a time when our country once again, and in particular our municipality, finds itself in crisis,” said Hendricks.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is going into a third wave – with the country back to an adjusted alert level 2 – while we are still batting the prevailing and prolonged drought, with Day Zero predicted within the next four to five months. That is if the winter rains do not come.

“These natural disasters have the potential to cripple our financial position and compromise the municipality’s ability to deliver services to the community.

“Despite these circumstances, our budged remained consistently cash-backed over a very difficult term.”

Kouga Municipal Budget

Based on a collection rate of 93% due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the total budget amounts to just over R1 billion – which is testament to the municipality’s seriousness about taking Kouga forward and serviced. Just over R1 074 million of the total budget is for the operating budget and R61 million is for the capital budget of the municipality.

“The operating budget will be funded from various sources, the major contributors being service charges (55.74%), property rates (22.65%), and grants and subsidies (15.81%) – a clear indication that as Kouga we are not dependent on national grand funding to survive,” said Hendricks.

The total operating expenditure for the 2021/2022 financial year amounts to just over R1 074 million, with the major operating expenditure items being employee-related costs at over R378 million (35,24%) and bulk electricity purchase at over R290 million (26.99%).

Tarif increases

To fund the operating budget, the following increases in property rates and service charges were approved, with effect from 1 July 2021:

 Property rates: 5.25%
 Water: 7.1%
 Sanitation: 6.5%
 Refuse: 6.5%
 Electricity: 14.59% (in line with NERSA recommendations)
 Environmental Management Fee: 0%

Hendricks said that the municipality had kept tariff increases as low as is possible.

“In some instances, especially when it comes to electricity, this proved to be a challenge, with Eskom increasing its bulk tariff to municipalities,” he said.

Major capital projects include the upgrading of gravel roads at a cost of R14.2 million, and the upgrade of the Hankey Waste Water Treatment Works at a cost of R9.2 million.

The Sea Vista Sports Field in St Francis Bay will, furthermore, be upgraded at a cost of R4.1 million this year, while the electrification of Ocean View will be done to the tune of R6.7 million.

“This is a clear indication that our budget is fully pro poor,” said Hendricks.

Augmentation fees

According to Hendricks, the overall positive news is the reduction in augmentation fees to support poorer communities and stimulate development in the region This include:

• Electrical augmentation – reduced by 30%
• Rezoning application – decreased by 23%
• Rezoning application specific to RDP and low-cost housing areas –decreased by 45%
• Departure application – decreased by 23%
• Departure use in RDP/low-cost housing areas – reduced by 45%
• Sub-divisions decreased by 23% and sub-divisions in RDP low-cost housing areas – decreased by 45%
• Consent use application – decreased by 48%
• Refuse augmentations – decrease by 10%
• Additional dwellings less than 60 square meters will be at no charge

Drought mitigation

“While the municipality has weathered the storm remarkably well, and maintained a collection rate of 93%, we will feel the impact of the ongoing drought in the new financial year,” said Hendricks.

“Therefore, we will probably have to re-allocate internal funding towards drought mitigation projects to ensure residents continue to have access to water.

“Business plans have been submitted to national government to help us mitigate the crisis, but there is no doubt that we will have to play our part to ensure the taps in Kouga do not run dry.”

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