Following on from the article posted in St Francis Today on Thursday – The 5-Year Plan.
Having had time to listen the audio and digest detail of the 5-year plan proposed by Messrs Furphy and Gray on Wednesday, there is no doubt the homeowners of St Francis Bay have a huge role to play. Simply put it is a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. On the one hand we have a decaying infrastructure that needs urgent attention if it is not to negatively influence not only property values, but also the general economy of the area. On the other hand we have a municipality that simply do not have the funds to invest in fixing the infrastructure and thus needs homeowners to step into the breach.
There have been many comments that the Kouga Municipality disregards the needs of St Francis Bay and in certain matters they do. But a comment by Wayne Furphy during his presentation certainly should give us cause to reflect. We have all witnessed the carnage in townships, and even at places of learning of late, where the masses feel there needs are not being catered for. Furphy went on to say he would not want to be a councillor returning to his home in a township to face the wrath of a community for non-delivery of services.
And he is right! The councillors have to try and manage a limited budget to cater for everyone and unlike our peaceful reaction when things don’t go our way, having your house burnt down, having your family attacked, or worse, certainly puts a different slant on the challenges these community appointed representatives face. Are the needs of some of the townships less important than our roads or our sewerage? Certainly the amount of money that needs to be spent on services in townships is disproportionate to what these township pay to the coffers of KM but that is how it works, like it or not. At least we have these services even if they are not quite up to the standard we were used to pre 1994. That is not to say that KM could not be better managed but right now we must live with the status quo.
So if the municipality cannot help, it has to fall on the shoulders of the homeowners of St Francis if they want to make St Francis a better place to live. The 5-year plan was a well put together analysis of firstly what needs to be done and secondly, a suggestion of how it can be done (see details of estimated costs at the end of this post). The figure of R200 million over the next five years, or R40 million a year out of the pockets of homeowners may seem unachievable but as Furphy pointed out St Francis Bay rates are some 0.2 to 0.3 percent lower than many of the cities of South Africa and significantly lower than the levies charged at some of the private estates on the Cape South Coast and the beautiful tropical estates on KZN’s North Coast.
Furphy went on to say that the greater St Francis area collectively pays approximately R50 million into the coffers of KM each year and thus if each homeowner were to pay into a fund an amount equal to their annual rates, this figure is easily achievable. Initially this would be a voluntary payment and certainly could not be enforced but Furphy did lay out plans to create a formal Section One company that would manage these funds into the future but this would require declaring the area a Self-Improvement District (SID) which could take a year or more. In the interim the funds would be managed by the St Francis Bay Residents Association which is a legitimate body entitled to oversee management of the funds.
If the infrastructure continues to degrade further, Furphy painted a picture of a possibility of property values falling 25 or even 50 percent. In other words a R2 million home would lose some R500K plus of its value against paying around R60000 in additional rates over the next five years (figures illustrative based on rates charge of R0.6% suggested by Furphy). To those concerned with their investment it is a consideration but those barely making ends meet each month … not so much.
Certainly not everyone who owns a home in St Francis Bay can afford to pay an extra few thousand or so Rands every month for many are on fixed incomes already taxed by ever increasing food process, school and tertiary education fees, rising fuel and electricity costs but there are those who can contribute and it is to these homeowners that the community will have to rely to at least kick start the urgent projects. Going forward it is possible both National and Provincial Government may come to the regions aid in terms of the eroding beach and the river but it is unlikely that the roads, storm water drainage and sewerage will be on their agenda.
There is a lot more to be written and discussed on the 5-year plan going forward for it certainly has replaced Thyspunt as a priority subject for the moment particularly with the masses of holiday makers who will descend on the village in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to monitor the reaction of those non-resident homeowners when and if they attend a similar presentation planned later next month. In the interim please feel free to add your comments at the bottom of this article for possibly your say can assist the residents association in fine tuning their plans going forward.