Property taxes needed to run Portmore – Acting Mayor
Acting Mayor for the Portmore Municipal Council, Leon Thomas, admitted that the municipality has faced numerous challenges because persons refuse to pay their property taxes.
Speaking at the STAR/JNN community forum at the HEART Trust/ NTA in Portsmouth, St Catherine, on Monday night, Acting Mayor Thomas said that the municipality has gone far as organising a group that is responsible for educating the citizens in Portmore about the importance of property tax and how it impacts the running of the municipality.
“What we have done is to put a unit in place, and we have gone to various communities and set up boots and forums where we have meetings and also joint meetings with other groups across the municipalitytrying to make sure we educate the people about how important property tax is to run the municipality,” Thomas said.
However, he pointed out that in 2014 the Portmore Municipal Council was the leader in the collection of property tax for which it was rewarded by the Ministry of Local Government.
“In 2014 we placed first in the island with regards to property tax, and we have seen benefits where we have received $5 million from the Ministry of Local Government,” Thomas said. “But when you look at the number of houses and land owners in Portmore, we are far behind in the collection of property taxes.”
He continued: “With regards to advertising, what we have done is that we have better control with that one because if the money isn’t paid then we would remove the billboards from across the municipality.”
Mayoral candidate, Keith Blake, said that there are a number of things that municipal council could do to ensure that property taxes are collected, including having an amnesty programme.
“There are a number of new housing schemes that are really not on the tax roll, and so you can engage citizens in that aspect. For persons who have owed on property tax, you can do an amnesty programme and engage the citizenry in ensuring that the taxes are paid,” Blake said.
But Thomas refuted the idea saying that the council cannot grant amnesty.
“That is the sole responsibility of central government. When property tax is paid, it goes to central government and we get a percentage of that,” he said.