Jamaicans to pay more for improved districts
Jamaicans are being put on notice to prepare to pay more to their respective parish councils for improvements in their areas, such as the installation of street lights and road work.
A Local Government (Financing and Financial Management) bill, tabled in the House of Representatives last week, is proposing that parish councils be empowered to propose additional fees for improvements in designated districts.
Noel Arscott, local government minister, said the proposals in the bill are modelled off experiences in Canada. He said locations like Mandeville, Port Antonio and New Kingston are being earmarked for pilot projects.
"We believe that, around the country, parish councils should take charge of areas and, in partnership with the businesses operating there, we can drive more business, create a better experience for the citizens and gradually, over time, improve the entire country," Arscott said.
The factors to be considered in designating special improvement or business improvement districts will be set out in the Local Governance Act which has not yet been tabled.
The Local Government (Financing and Financial Management) bill, one of the three strategic local-government-reform bills that have been tabled in Parliament, proposes to give parish councils the power to designate certain projects for the benefit of the inhabitants of a local authority or geographic subset of a local authority.
"In order to pay for or provide for the costs, charges and expenses incurred, or to be incurred, in relation to any improvement project ... , a local authority may, from time to time, impose, in such amount and for such period as may be necessary", a rate or additional rates or fees.
However, the House of Representatives must pass a resolution to approve the imposition of the rates or fees.
The bill proposes that the parish councils be required to submit for the approval of the local government minister, every rate proposed to be imposed and every increase or decrease or other alteration that has been proposed for any rate imposed.
fixed payable dates
The local government minister is then required to consult with the finance minister, and then if they are satisfied that the provisions of the law are being complied with, is then empowered to fix the date on which the new fees become due or the dates on which they are payable.
The additional rate or fee to finance the improvement project may be imposed on properties situated in or throughout the improvement districts, or on properties situated in such geographical area. It may also be imposed on any activity or operation in the geographical jurisdiction of the improvement district.
Monies for improvement projects must be kept in an account at a deposit-taking institution.
Scean Barnswell, chairman of the Clarendon Parish Council and head of the Association of Local Government Authorities, said yesterday that the increased fees are likely to impact other costs such as market fees, subdivision fees, transportation-centre levies and building fees.
"There is a need for it because there are times that monies are not available to do like renovation work to markets or transportation centres, and we have to be dependent on the Equalisation Fund, which is not sufficient to give you what you want," Barnswell said.
"It is something that we will have to work closely with the parish development committees and the chambers of commerce to get them on board," he added.
An improvement project can be initiated in two ways - either by way of a petition to the council that is signed by more than 50 per cent of the owners of real property in the geographical area, or following a report of the relevant local authority's engineering officer.