Leonard Ncube , Victoria Falls Reporter
VICTORIA Falls council has said it might be forced to scale down some services to cut costs as it cannot review downwards the 2020 $354 million budget.
Recently residents petitioned councilors to review rates downwards.
The municipality which relies largely on ratepayers for revenue, crafted a $354 million budget for 2020, up from $22 million last year.
Pressured by residents, councilors and management had initially agreed on reviewing downwards the budget but council’s finance committee last week noted that the move would cripple the local authority’s operations.
Councillors have since implored management to find alternative sources of revenue, which includes the sale of about 15 low density housing stands.
Speaking during a full council meeting last week, councillors said residents’ financial capacity has been reduced by Covid-19 as most have been rendered jobless.
Finance Committee deputy chair Councillor Prince Thuso Moyo said the local authority desperately needs money for developmental projects.
“If we retain the current budget, we may end up cutting down on service delivery. We need something that can allow council to do service delivery so that after our term we would have done something productive. These are the things to explain to our constituents that some services will not be done. As we stand with residents, let’s us go and explain to them that refuse collection could be scaled down,” said Cllr Thuso.
Mayor Cllr Somveli Dlamini said a resolution was made not to alter the budget.
“This issue was triggered by a petition by residents and a motion moved by councillors hence this resolution. The decision is binding, so no-one should then later say he or she wasn’t part of this. We should go and explain to residents why we came up with this decision. Management should come up with cost cutting measures because relying on rates alone is not sustainable since the economy is not functioning. We have Covid-19 lockdown where business is closed,” said the mayor.
Ward 1 Cllr Marguerite Varley urged council to bear in mind that the majority of residents are not employed as a result of the lockdown.
“Let’s consider the option of selling stands by public auction. I know it’s not people friendly but we will make more money that will cushion us,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Patricia Mwale said the council is in a Catch-22 situation.
“The majority of people were employed in tourism and are out of jobs at the moment. Reviewing downwards might reduce council’s capacity while increasing will put a strain on residents. We are found in a catch-22 situation where we need money but at the same time we should not forget our residents,” said Cllr Mwale.