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Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Home Highlights 1% property tax increase long overdue - Mayor Wagner

1% property tax increase long overdue – Mayor Wagner

Collection of the $21 million owed to the council in taxes will provide funding for massive infrastructure works set for 2022

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 13, 2022– The Belize City Council is offering discounts to all those who pay their property taxes early this year, but many feel that the recent 1% hike in property taxes negates those discounts completely. In an interview with the media this week, Mayor Bernard Wagner clarified the property tax issue and also spoke on several other City Council matters, including his plans for the council in 2022.

In his interview, Mayor Wagner noted that property taxes should have been increased about 5 years ago in 2017, but the council at the time did not proceed with that increase. And when the current council came into office, they also did not pursue an increase. Then, in 2020 and 2021, given the dire financial circumstances in which most Belize City residents found themselves after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the council did not see it fit to increase the taxes at that time.

“Given the circumstances, especially after 2020 and 2021, we didn’t see how we could look to increase property taxes,” said the Mayor. “But for 2022 it is only 1%. And if you were paying 100 dollars in property taxes, right, say for last year, a 1% increase on that will give you one dollar that you’ll be paying extra now. But we are giving a 15% discount, so it really nullifies. It cancels out everything.”

When asked how the council can increase any fees or charges currently, especially considering the pandemic, the Mayor had the following to say:

“Well, the people are asking for services, each and every day. The streets are breaking up. The city owes 21 million dollars. Each of you sees the state of the streets. You expect us to fix the streets, isn’t that so? But we can’t fix it if we don’t get our revenues.”

The 1% increase in property tax is a part of the council’s effort to collect the money owed in back taxes. Collection of those millions, says Mayor Wagner, would contribute greatly to the plans that are in store for the city in 2022. That includes massive infrastructure works on a number of the streets and finding a sustainable solution to the cost of garbage collection. Currently, the council pays about $3.8 million in collection fees annually, but Wagner says that they are looking for a solution.

Also in the Mayor’s plans for 2022, is the installation of parking meters. The Mayor indicated, however, that the council is currently receiving a bit of pushback when it comes to the meters.

“Whenever you are implementing any activity or initiative that involves a fee, you will have pushback. We face that currently,” he said.

The Mayor noted pushback from the area representatives especially, but stated that he remains optimistic. The meters are already programmed and ready for installation, but CitCo is currently awaiting approval from Cabinet.

Mayor Wagner also briefly spoke on the recent upset created after a leaked memorandum revealed that traffic wardens must meet a monthly quota of 44 traffic violation tickets. He noted that, while traffic quotas have always existed, officers are not sanctioned for not meeting them. The City does, however, expect a certain level of performance from wardens and also a certain level of compliance by citizens when it comes to following traffic laws.

On the issue of health and COVID-19, the Mayor shared a bit on the current battle against the pandemic—a battle that the City Council, like many other organizations, continues to fight. According to the mayor, several employees across various departments at City Hall are currently out due to COVID-19.

“Omicron is very contagious, and the City is not immune to it,” he stated. He then added, “but the point of the matter is that we can’t go back to not doing business. We’ve seen the effects of not doing business in the city, when there was total lockdown.”

The Mayor spoke on the importance of vaccination, combined with implementing necessary safety measures, in the battle against COVID-19. But he also stressed the importance of continuity and succession planning in the workplace to ensure the continuation of business at City Hall.

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