Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
THE POOR state of the majority of parochial roads in Hanover is among the myriad of concerns for persons who are wary about paying property tax to the Hanover Parish Council.
Property tax is used to fund services such as street lights, garbage collection and disposal; and parochial road rehabilitation.
According to information gleaned from the Ministry of Local Government's website, property tax arrears for Hanover from 2006 to 2013 stands at $144 million.
While the parish did not have the fiscal report on property tax collected based on data for the period April to August 2012, $51 million was collected, while a further $15 million was collected during January to March 2013 and October 2012 combined, making a grand total of $66 million.
However, Donald Campbell, a businessman and farmer from the district of Dias, believes that residents of the parish are not getting value for money.
"It is good for us to pay property taxes, but I don't see what we are getting for it," Campbell told The Gleaner. "Garbage is being collected, but you are not seeing where the funds are being spent on the parochial roads. Almost all the roads are bad ... . It is a national disgrace! Cars can't drive on the Epping road, and even though my vehicle is big, I wouldn't drive on it. While street lights are in place generally, Epping has a problem with lights as many are not working."
In 2008, Hanover had the enviable distinction of being the island's most tax-compliant parish with a 61 per cent compliance rate. At the end of the fiscal year 2007-2008, Hanoverians paid over a total of $41,363,477 in property tax, well ahead of other parishes on a per capita basis.
At the time, the successful compliance rate was said to be as a result of the stringent measures taken by the council to ensure that taxes were paid on time. This was done through the use of compliance officers, who were attached directly to the Inland Revenue Department, to identify delinquents.
Vice-President of the Clifton/Mount Peace Farmers Group, Ray Kerr, contends that service delivery in some areas, especially parochial road rehabilitation, is especially lacking and is not commensurate to the amount of tax being paid.
Shernet Haughton, the mayor of Lucea and chairman of the Hanover Parish Council, said while the rate of tax compliance was satisfactory, it could be much better. She said an improved standard of service was needed from the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) and the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).
"The municipal police are out there doing collection and serving notices, so you find that most of the residents really act in terms of coming in and paying," said Haughton.
" I know persons might have a lot of concerns, but we just have to encourage them to pay up," the mayor said. "I know persons want to see what the money they are paying is really doing, so we have to be accountable and spend wisely."
DELAYED ROAD REPAIRS
Possibly to the chagrin of those who are bemoaning the state of the roads, the mayor said plans for repairing some parochial roads have had to be shelved as those monies were used by the Ministry of Local Government to pay outstanding sums owed to the JPS.
In regards to the NSWMA, the mayor acknowledged that the council had no official monitoring programme in place to ensure that there was service delivery by the NSWMA, and that only approximately 55 per cent of the parish was getting garbage-collection services.
"Persons complain about garbage collection from time to time. We need more garbage trucks, so there are many areas in Hanover where people call me from time to to time say the trucks haven't collected their garbage," said Haughton. "There are times when I call the parish manager and he tells me that trucks are broken down. We would like to get better service from them."
"They just send us some monthly bills in regards to garbage collection," added the mayor. "The councillors in the relevant divisions try to monitor the situation because persons keep complaining of backlogs and residents are not pleased, generally."
According to Jamaica's Property Tax Act, all landowners are to pay the tax, which is "due and payable on the first day of April each year" to the Collector of Taxes of the parish in which the property is situated. However, there are certain exemptions.