In poll year, it’s a sop story with no new taxes

Civic body presents Rs 31,000-cr surplus budget, 17% higher than last fiscal.

Mumbai | Updated: February 6, 2014 11:24:18 am
Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte (right) and standing committee Chairman Rahul Shewale at BMC headquarters, CST, on Wednesday. (Express) Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte (right) and standing committee Chairman Rahul Shewale at BMC headquarters, CST, on Wednesday. (Express)

With Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in mind, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the richest municipal body in the country, Wednesday presented a Rs 31,178 crore surplus budget, 17.29 per cent higher than the budget estimate of 2013-14. It did not introduce any new taxes, but announced a slew of sops.

After reading aloud an exhaustive 118-page Budget speech over 90 minutes in Marathi, Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte, said, “I would note here that no new taxes have been imposed in the Budget Estimates for 2014-15.”

His budget maintained a thrust on completing ongoing projects. Some of the significant allocations are: Rs 519.40 crore for repair of municipal dilapidated structures, Rs 100-crore financial assistance to BEST to avoid fare hikes, an advance release of Rs 500 crore for water and sewerage works and Rs 2,500 crore for capital spend on roads.

Kunte also announced a staggering Rs 7,923 crore towards ‘extension of services to the urban poor’, which includes provision for health (Rs 2,629 crore), primary and secondary education (Rs 2,869 crore), upgrade of slums (Rs 467 crore), improvement of chawls (Rs 575 crore) and water subsidies (Rs 1,237 crore).

The sops include the creation of a Slum Improvement Cell to deal with basic infrastructure and amenities in slums, a special provision of Rs 15 crore for infrastructure works with focus on women-centric issues, and extension of conservancy services to private layouts such as Juhu Vile Parle Development Scheme and other government layouts such as MHADA colonies.

The increase in revised revenue income for the current year compared with the budget estimate is attributed largely to the increase in income from the Development Plan Department. While the BMC estimated to collect Rs 3,362 crore as development charges, it has been revised to Rs 4,743 crore, mainly due to higher revenue income from the new source of premium against fungible FSI, which was not being charged earlier. For the next fiscal, BMC has estimated a revenue income of Rs 4,444 crore. “This additional money will help us undertake new infrastructure projects,” Kunte said.

The BMC estimated to collect Rs 7,800 crore from octroi, the biggest component income, for 2014-15, marginally higher (Rs 60 crore) than what it estimated in the current fiscal. The state government’s plan to abolish octroi and introduce the Local Body Tax perhaps weighed down the estimates. Estimated collection from property tax in 2014-15 too remains the same at Rs 3,956 crore compared with Rs 3,955 in the current financial year.

Kunte stressed on the total outstanding from various departments of the state amounting to Rs 2,531 crore from dues of property tax, water and sewerage charges and grant-in-aid from education department of the state government. However, the BMC owes Rs 564 crore to the state in dues.

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