SRA Vote delayed

SRA Vote delayed until 2018

Reading the St Francis Property Owners newsletter that was circulated yesterday, it indicates that the targeted implementation date is now set for 1 July, 2018 should the SRA application be consented to by the majority of property owners and the Kouga Municipality. No doubt this will allow detractors some relief but it will also give us all an indication of just how much the municipality can deliver in terms of what improving the decaying infrastructure in St Francis.

With the commitment to improving the lot of the poor communities in the Kouga region it is doubtful we will see the needed finance for projects being allocated to St Francis and more likely any allocation will not even scratch the surface of what is needed. The reality is that the decay will not be arrested if money is not allocated and will become more critical, and more costly, a year on.

Reading an article published in the Sunday Time (included below) one must say the St Francis Property Owners decision on the vote criteria is extremely fair when reading how the ‘vote’ is decided in the Llandudno SRA. From the article it seems the value of one’s property dictates how many votes a home owner is allocated rather than the ‘one property one vote’ adopted by the St Francis Property Owners association. Had this ‘value’ format been set by SFPO there would undoubtedly have been even more resistance to the SRA concept than there has been. Thus far no one has come up with a better option so it still seems the only way forward, like it or not.

An interesting suggestion by a number of property owners is that SFPO start collecting money now. Obviously SFPO cannot enforce such a collection but the suggestion is that those property owners truly concerned with progress possibly start paying a levy equal to that proposed levy as a donation to kick start projects now rather than wait a year for what could be inevitable.

Read the full SFPO June newsletter here

SRA Llandudno

 

Road plans unveiled

Road plans unveiled by St Francis Property Owners

The St Francis Property Owners technical committee has certainly been hard at work at analysing much of what needs to be done to bring the St Francis road work up to scratch. No doubt financed by the money donated by those who responded to the call for donations to the “Save St Francis” Fund in December that raised close to R5 million, the report is certainly worth reading.

No doubt the Nay Sayers will have their say on social media but certainly this is a step forward in advising residents some of what the SRA is about and all that needs to be done to save the road network. With Exec Mayor having made it quite clear that the municipal budget next financial year for road upgrades in the entire Kouga district is for just one kilometre of road upgrades and in years to come, one kilometre per ward (17 wards) per year. It would appear there there is scant hope of our roads ever being upgraded without St Francis residents taking some action themselves..

Although our raods are presently in quite good condition with the DA having been true to their word, the rains are a coming and we all know once the rain starts so the potholes start opening up. Will will the municipality have the funds and manpower to keep up with the good job they  have been doing? More seriously though, every pothole further degrades the sub-structure and stability of the roads and patching does little to preserve the road foundations.

Read the various reports here.

Road Plans

Road Final Drawings

Road Visuals

or visit http://npc.stfrancispropertyowners.co.za/npc-projects/road-maintenance/

 

 

Let’s work together!

Let’s work together and forget the pettiness.

With the announcement in parliament that only nine percent of the 2017 / 18 budget will be spent on municipalities, possibly those opposed to the St Francis Property Owners SRA proposal should reconsider their NO votes and actively engage themselves in finding a way forward. Only those who choose to ignore the Minister’s assertions in his budget speech and Kouga Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen’s confirmations that priority will be the upliftment of the poorer areas of Kouga can be in any doubt that there is not going to a magic wand that will see the Kouga municipality finding the funding to address our deteriorating infrastructure.

St Francis Today was yesterday given a copy of a flier that is being distributed in St Francis soliciting property owners to reverse their YES vote. Considering the government’s decision is it not time that the anti SRA body reconsider and rather start working with the SFPO to find a solution to what realities are facing our little (affluent) hamlet. One would have to be without social conscience to ignore the plight of the poor for there is a growing restlessness throughout South Africa with the general feeling amongst the poor that nothing has changed since the demise of apartheid 22 years ago.

Certainly there may be flaws in the SRA proposal that need to be addressed but discounting it as unworkable is rather like burying one’s head in the sand. Leaving it to the politicians to solve is not going to work and if we are going to ignore the experience of well qualified business people and their well researched suggested solutions, who are we going to turn to. If nothing is done and the input of the present SFPO committee is totally ignored, their value may be lost to us forever. Like David Cameron resigning when he lost the Brexit vote, will this committee too decide to throw in the towel? And who of those so against the SRA are going to step into the void and fight for St Francis should these proven business leaders decide to step down.

This is not a pro SRA post but rather an appeal to forget the petty arguments and come together as a community and find solutions not only for St Francis but also for our close neighbours in Sea Vista.

The SRA is not about the canals, the spit and beachfront properties. It is about St Francis and our future. Maybe it is time to again read the SFPO “Vision 2030” document.

More Questions and Answers on SRA

16 March – SRA Questions, Answers, Comments and Responses

Question: Can the legitimacy of the voting process will be challenged and if challenged and how will those who are not members of the Residents Association be informed?

Answer: People incorrectly see the voting as an election process. Nobody is being elected. The Kouga Municipality simply requires, as per the SRA legislation, proof of consent of the majority of property owners, 50%+1, that they approve of the SRA levy, and as such allow the Municipality to add it to their monthly Municipal bill. The consent forms are required in hardcopy format and can be inspected by anyone who chooses to do so. It cannot be a secret ballot. We have used the term vote on the consent form to avoid confusion as to a yes or no to the consent requested by us.

Question: Before I can vote on supporting the special levy I would like to know how the amount was decided?

Answer: The levy was calculated based on detailed cost estimates we have collected over the past year for each piece of our infrastructure that  we need to restore. The road costs came from the work a group of  consulting engineers we hired – EAS PE. These costs are based on a survey completed by them. The sewerage costs were given to us by  Aurecon, who have the complete set of drawings for the roll out of water borne sewerage to the remaining 75% of properties who are on conservancy tanks and soak aways. The River, Spit and Beach costs have  been based on the work done by Worley Parson in 2014, and subsequent  work by the Riparians, and our own team. The security camera estimates were extracted from information provided by two separate Security  camera equipment companies that service a lot of private estates and cities around South Africa.

Question: What if the municipal rates spiral?

Answer: The Municipality cannot increase its rates over and above inflation without a specific application to National Treasury (this is specifically to protect property owners from being exploited). The Municipality relies on an annual inflation adjustment and the re-valuing of properties every 5 years

Question: Will there be written agreement between the SRA and Local Authority as to who does what, in the absence of such, efforts will naturally default to the SRA doing everything (the slippery slope).

A: This is spelt out in the SRA Business Plan. In our draft Business Plan it is very clear that we are not a surrogate municipality.

Question: The issue of ownership of infrastructure; If the SFPO is building and maintaining infrastructure should it not be the owner of, or at least have lien over same?

A: If we wanted to turn the whole of St Francis into a private estate then we should take ownership of the land and infrastructure, including Sea Vista. This also means all infrastructure including electricity, water, refuse removal, etc. We do not have a mandate from the property owners to do this as this would require a lot more money than we can raise through this levy. We want the Municipality to get back on its feet and serve us going forward, but it simply does not have the resources to do so in an acceptable timeframe, which is why we are proposing the SRA levy.

Question: Has anyone tried to analyize why properties in St Francis Bay have dropped more than 30% in the past 8 years. Second to Plett it is one of our premier coastal holiday destinations. We can’t blame potholes in the roads or the beach erosion for this.

Answer: This has been caused by the declining state of our infrastructure, both environmental and roads etc. Many people have considered selling up and getting out of St Francis because of the state of our infrastructure, and the absolute resistance to change by some of our retired community. The possibility of the SRA solution has held back a lot of these disenchanted property investors, but it leaves us with a depressed market

Question: How much revenue is collected each year from the current rates, and how are these funds allocated? Sewerage, water and electricity are charged separately and homeowners are charged for these services whether their homes are occupied or not, or whether plots are developed or not. I expect the new DA mayor to provide the reasons why there is no money available for repair of infrastructure.
I am all in favour of repairing and improving the beach facilities and would be willing to make a monthly contribution but feel 50% of current rates to be unaffordable.

Answer: The Municipality were asked to give a full set of figures for St Francis and private estates in early December but they said they could not do so until January. We couldn’t request this information until the DA Councillors had agreed to support our SRA proposal, and were only given this decision late November. Our research has told us that St Francis Bay’s 2,150 properties (which excludes the private estates, Cape St Francis, and Sea Vista township) contribute about R37m a year in rates. The private estates probably add another R15m, bearing in mind that some the River Estates pay Agricultural rates (25% of the residential rates). So we think about R50m pa is paid by St Francis excluding Cape St Francis and Sea Vista.

We are not privy as to how these rates are allocated by the Municipality but would think they first of all are used to pay salaries and overheads (buildings, equipment, etc.). What we were told by Ben Rheeder and Elza van Lingen at the AGM was that they are obligated to spend 60% of all available funds to underprivileged areas. The Municipality has budgeted to collect R680m from all of its services in the 2016/2017 year. The capital budget is R60m, which is hopelessly inadequate for what is required to be done. Our Waste Treatment plant alone requires R10m to upgrade it because it is running at full capacity or more.

Water and electricity is charged based on consumption. You can look at your own account to see whether an availability fee is also charged. Sewerage is a levy of somewhere around R189 per month, which is consistent with a water borne sewerage service. We are not charged for the honey sucker to empty our conservancy tank in St Francis Bay. Cape St Francis (CSF) on the other hand has no water borne sewerage at all and have to pay between R650 and R960 per honey sucker service. If you require two services a month (as I do for my conservancy tank), then you will pay R1,300 – R1,920 per month. The average property value in St Francis is R3m with monthly rates of R1,650 and The sewerage service in CSF will cost you between 80 – 110% of you monthly rates!  Our honey sucker services appear to be heavily subsidised in St Francis Bay.

You have every right to ask the DA whatever you choose. Unlike the ANC previously you will get an answer.  From my point of view the DA are working very hard to turn around a severely damaged Municipality. The Municipality has a lawsuit currently in progress for R750m for their part in failing to deal with the fires a few years ago. Their vehicle fleet of some 220 vehicles had less than 10% left on the road when the DA took over in August. PE Metro are claiming an underpayment of R43m on the water account as PE supplies Kouga Municipality with its water. There are a number of corruption charges they are dealing with to clean up the Municipality. They have to reinvigorate their staff….among many other challenges.

 We are proposing 50% to fix the infrastructure backbone of our town. We have had professional engineers estimate the R373m to do this. 36% of this total value is fixing the results of man-made interventions in our environment. Santareme was built on the sand dunes that fed sand onto our beach, and has caused the loss of our beach. The diverting of the Sand river from where it entered the sea near Aldabara to the Kromme river, has resulting in depositing all its sand in the river rather than on the beach where it fed the Spit.

As regards the cost of restoring our infrastructure, we can extend the period beyond 10 years and pay less, but the cost of fixing all of this is just going to climb the longer we leave it. The 50% levy will adjust our rates to 0.92, still below PE’s rates of 0.97, but we control through the SFPO NPC (Not For Profit Company) all of this additional levy (with the exception of a small administrative fee deducted by the Municipality). We know that we are stuck between a rock and hard place, but for the 10 years
that I have been living full-time in St Francis I have not seen or heard of any solutions to our problems. The last serious proposal (beach, spit and river only) was in 2006, and that was rejected. Look where that got us.

Where this levy is unaffordable we are in the process of setting up a system whereby people can apply for partial or full relief.

SRA not unlike Brexit

St Francis SRA not unlike Brexit

Watching Sky News and the ongoing Brexit saga it is in a way rather similar to the ongoing SRA vote. As with those voting to exit the European Union so that Britain can have control over its future rather than leaving it in the hands of Brussels so it is those in favour of the SRA want to wrest the future of St Francis away from Kouga municipality by voting YES. On the other hand those wanting to leave the future of St Francis in the hands of the municipality by voting NO is not dissimilar to those who voted against BREXIT thus leaving it to the EU to decide what is good for Britain. This was brought to the fore by Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party in her  press statement yesterday that she would propose to again have a referendum for Scotland’s independence so that Scotland can remain in the EU.

Social media has been awash with posts by both those for the SRA and those against. Concerning is the number of anti SRA posts that show a total misunderstanding of what the SRA is proposing that seem more emotional than factual. That said there are however posts questioning certain aspects of the proposal that do need to be addressed and thus it really is important that civic leaders from both sides get together and properly address these issues of concern for the facts certainly point to the municipality not being able to deliver all that St Francis needs.

St Francis contributes some R37million to Kouga finances by way of property rates and as there is legislation that 60% of the municipal income must be spent on underprivileged townships this leaves at best, only some R14 million available and this is before even factoring in the actual municipal running expenses such as salaries et al.

It really doesn’t take rocket science to realise that additional funds are necessary to reverse the decaying infrastructure. At the State of the Municipality presentation a week or two back Exec Mayor Elza van Lingen brought up several interesting realities one of which was what the council was looking to achieve by way of road upgrades and this certainly doesn’t bode well for any money being spent on St Francis roads in the next year or more.

There appears to be a belief that the SRA is to be primarily for the canals, the spit, the river and the beaches and it seems these issues are understandably clouding the purpose of an SRA and where the money is to be spent.  SFPO does need to set the public’s minds at rest by better clarifying these aspects of the funding proposal and the article SFPO VOTE for the SRA more clearly illustrates where the funds are to be spent. .

SFPO have supplied St Francis Today which we were intending to publish today but owing to a few technical issues have decided to rather publish it tomorrow. The document lists answers to comments and questions posted on both SFT and on social media and we will publish these tomorrow as well as create a page where ongoing questions, comments and answers will be posted. .

SFPO Vote for the SRA Levy

The St Francis Property Owners proposal to ‘Save St Francis’ was presented at our AGM on 22 December 2016.

We have a choice:

  1. Do nothing and watch our property investments continue to devalue
  2. Pay the Municipality more in increased rates and watch 60% of it being diverted elsewhere
  3. Set up a Special Rating Area (SRA) and have the Municipality pay the SRA levy back to us to be used exclusively for St Francis.

The Municipality is legally obliged to collect the levy on our behalf and pay us the proceeds within 30 days (less an administration fee of some 3%) to St Francis Property Owners Not For profit Company (SFPO NPC). This company is already set up and handles the donations that we collected over the past year to Save St Francis. This same arrangement has existed for 10 years for the maintenance of the Canals by the St Francis Bay Riparian Home Owners Association.

There are many SRAs already set up in South Africa, and they have proven to be successful which is why we have proposed the SRA for St Francis.  The proposed levy is 50% of a property owner’s rates. If your property is valued at say R2 million then you will pay approximately R1,120 a month in rates. The SRA levy will be 50% of the R1,120 i.e. R560 per month.

SRA Levy Expenditure – Proposed

SRA Expenditure

Our priority projects are the arterial roads, and Phase 2A of the river/spit/beach project. Phase 2A involves (1) selecting the solution for de-silting the river, getting this sand onto the beach and holding it on the beach and (2) submitting the EIA to DEDEAT for authorisation. We expect Phase 2A to take 12-18 months before we can actually start on the restoration of river, spit and beach.

This levy will last for 10 years to restore and upgrade the infrastructure of this town after which the municipality will be responsible for maintaining it.  With your support the SRA levy will begin on 01 July 2017.

The SFPO Committee, the directors on the SFPO NPC and the members of our Technical committee are all volunteers, focussing on the survival and restoration of our town. We are acutely aware of the importance of the retired community to the well-being of St Francis. Most of our SFPO Committee members are retired as well. We are formulating a set of exemption criteria to ensure that those who cannot afford the levy will be exempted. We have asked for input from pensioners to assist with setting this criteria to make sure it is appropriate.

We ask all property owners to sign and submit a consent form either supporting (Yes vote) or opposing (No vote) the SRA levy.  If you have any questions please phone Jacky Green at the SFPO office in St Francis Bay at 042 294 0594. Please complete one Voting form per property.

Please complete one Consent form per property, and send it/them to the SFPO via one of the following methods:

  1. Scan the form and email it to Jacky Green at : contact@sfbresidents.org
  2. Photograph it and SMS or WhatsApp it to 073 773 1867
  3. Drop it at the SFPO office located at the Alva Merle Estate Agents office at 115 St Francis Drive.

Document submitted by St Francis Property Owners