The standing committee of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) on Friday shot down a proposal to double water charges for all categories and revised the tax rates on vehicles while approving the budget of the civic body for the year 2018-19. At a budget meeting, the committee approved the budget with more than a dozen amendments to the proposals moved by Municipal Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani.
The commissioner in his January 30 budget presentation had proposed to double the charges for domestic water connection from Rs 840 to Rs 1,680. He had proposed to increase water charges for commercial properties from Rs 1,680 to Rs 3,360. Justifying this proposal, the commissioner said that the RMC was spending around Rs 100 crore on distributing around 185 million-litres of water per day (MLD), while recovering only around Rs 31 crore through user charges.
The committee, however, asked the civic body to look for other means to plug the gap between expenditure and revenue and not increase the water charges. “We concede that RMC is heavily subsidising water distribution. But water is an extremely sensitive issue and concerns every resident of the city. We are of the view that once we have infrastructure in place to supply water round-the-clock and have enough water to do so, we shall increase water charges. In such a scenario, the users will pay for the amount of water they use,” said committee chairman Pushkar Patel,
The budget also estimates that the civic body will spend around Rs 118 crore on water distribution in 2018-19. The standing committee had trashed a similar proposal to increase water charges in 2016-17 budget also.
In another significant amendment, the standing committee revised the tax rate that RMC charges on purchase of new vehicles. While the civic body currently charges one per cent flat of the cost of vehicle at the time of purchase, the commissioner had proposed to make it 2.25 per cent.
Introducing sub-categories, the committee proposed to keep the rate at one per cent for vehicles with price up to Rs 1 lakh and two per cent for vehicles whose price is more than Rs 1 lakh.
The standing committee increased the overall budget size by Rs 41.75 crore and approved total estimates worth Rs 1,669.33 crore. The standing committee approved the commissioner’s proposal to fix Rs 11 per square metre as the rate of property tax for residential premises and Rs 22 for commercial properties.