Bulawayo City Council adopts $158m 2015 budget

By Staff Reporter

BULAWAYO residents will next year fork out more to the local authority for services rendered, if government approves the city’s proposed $158 million 2015 budget.

The budget, unveiled on Thursday at a special council meeting, proposed to increase tariffs by 4%.

The proposed expenditure budget is pegged at $107 million and the capital budget at $51 million.

Nineteen councillors who were present at the meeting adopted the proposed budget.

Presenting the budget, Chairperson of the Finance Committee, Councillor James Sithole, noted that the local authority is seized with improving service delivery and replacing ageing equipment, as guided by the government economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset)

The budget came about after a series of ward based budget consultation meetings where residents and stakeholders got an opportunity to input into next year’s budget.

Although the attendance by residents was poor, with only 1894 people attending the consultations, Sithole revealed that a majority of the 29 wards in the city were in favour of the tariff increase proposal.

The residents also set priorities in terms of service delivery, with water provision coming out tops.

The other services were ranked as follows, health, sewerage, housing, roads, education, public lighting, social services and fire and ambulance.

“Of the 29 wards, 21 accepted the 4% increase proposal, 7 wards opted for a standstill budget and one ward indicated they will go with the majority. The 4% increase which balances the budget at $107.2 million was adopted as the proposed budget.

“Your worship, council needs funding in order to improve services to its residents as some infrastructure need complete refurbishment and replacement. This means council has to look for alternative ways of funding such as Public-Private Partnership,” Sithole said.

He noted that a two year tariff increase freeze, the high cost of fuel and residents demands for improved service, had forced them to propose an increase in tariffs.

“The council therefore is recommending a marginal increase in tariffs of 4% with effect from 1 January 2015. While the proposed increase will mean ratepayers paying more for services, it is intended to improve service delivery,” said Sithole.

He also urged residents to pay their bills to enable council to provide funds for service delivery.

“As at August 2014, council was owed US$84.7 million by ratepayers. The increase in debtors is a cause for concern as it indicates that most ratepayers are not paying their full bills every month. Ratepayers therefore, are encouraged to pay their bills timeously so as to enjoy improved services,” said Sithole.

Local authorities are still struggling to recover after the government urged all councils to scrap outstanding bills owed by residents just before last year’s harmonised elections.

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