After a process of public engagement, voting and objections, on 25 March, the City Council approved three Special Rating Areas – Hermanus, Onrus/Vermont and Kleinmond. I am a Hermanus property owner and I was one of the few ratepayers who submitted an objection to the Municipality. I objected because I believe that the process was not legally compliant and that ratepayers were not informed what it is that the increased rates would buy.
I did engage with the HSRA Steering Committee about my concerns but they did not give me any more information on what ratepayers will get for their money. They just said that they will follow a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to appoint service providers. I am concerned that ratepayers still do not know what the HSRA will spend their money on and it looks like the HSRA’s buying process may not be fully transparent and its governance questionable.
Ratepayers should remember that they voted for this and my guess is that the Municipality will take a hands-off approach to governance – they will leave it to ratepayers to manage. The HSRA Steering Committee did not give any explanation for why they did not do all of the things that the law, by-law and regulations require of them. The municipality was totally silent during the whole process – when I sent my objection they did not engage with me at all.
Hermanus ratepayers do know where their money will go, and the HSRA expects ratepayers to trust that they will benefit. Not being able to trust blindly, I looked into this matter. The HSRA will take R8.3 million of ratepayers’ money in the next year, increasing every year by around half a million for the next five years. This is considerably more than both Onrus/Vermont and Kleinmond SRAs. Per property, Hermanus ratepayers will be paying 3.2 times more that Onrus/Vermont ratepayers and 3.6 time more than Kleinmond ratepayers.
Now, some people may be inclined to play numbers games and say ‘that is not the right picture, look at the rates on property valuations’. Well, I did and Hermanus will still be paying around double what other SRAs are asking – no matter how one looks at the numbers. From their business plan all we know is that the HSRA will do some monitoring, security patrols and cleaning of public spaces. These things are not more expensive in areas with high property values, like Hermanus, compared to Onrus/Vermont and Kleinmond. To the contrary, I would expect that for similar services, Hermanus (with more expensive properties) would pay less per property that the other locations.
What does Hermanus get for paying so much more than Onrus/Vermont and Kleinmond? Do we get some sort of VIP service, or what? The answer is we do not know and the HSRA has not told us. The Onrus/Vermont business plan has more details than we got in Hermanus. The Hermanus SRA business plan was a draft and, despite strong objections, it was somehow processed and accepted by the municipality.