Belize City Council operating on small deficit for 2013-2014

The Belize City Council has reduced its operating deficit for the 2013-2014 financial year, according to its independently audited financial statements released at the end of 2014 and available in book format for reporters on Tuesday. As of March 31, 2014, the Council’s deficit was $136,601, reduced from $1,969,959 in 2013. Revenue increased from $21.97 million to $25.54 million in 2014, led by increases in property tax revenue to $9.39 million from $7.27 million in 2013. The Government’s subvention to Belize City has doubled to $4.2 million from $2.197 million but fees in other departments have dropped including traffic and tourism related revenue. On the expenditure side, sanitation continues to lead the list at $7.587 million spent, falling from $9.065 million in 2013. Finance and administration accounted for $6.1 million of the monies spent for the year; the office of the Mayor spent $3.332 million up from $2.1 million, of which $1.3 million is dedicated to legal fees, triple the amount paid in 2013. And human resources and traffic department also spent over a $1 million each. Total expenditure rose from $23,939,953 in 2012-13 to $25,679,943 in 2013-14. However, the Council has about $3.23 million on hand in cash flow. The Mayor discussed the difficulties of managing a City with limited revenue maintaining that the Central Government’s assistance at this point is enough.

.

Darrell Bradley – Mayor of Belize City

“With relation to the dialogue between the Municipality and the Central Government, at all levels of government we cooperate.  We’ve cooperated very closely with the Central Bank, in terms of managing our sinking fund.  We cooperate very closely with the Ministry of Local Government, in dealing with very salient pieces of legislation.  Right now we’re looking at the revision of the Municipal Authorities Bill.  I think we can pass that before the Municipal Elections.  That’s something that is going to be very significant for Municipalities throughout the country.  That piece of legislation brings to bear the toughest anti-corruption laws of any part of this government, so that if there’s any mismanagement or corruption, they have fines as high as fifty thousand dollars and six years imprisonment. 

Those are the things that we really need to look at, and we really need to talk about, as opposed to who shares what in terms of  the Municipal pie.  We have gotten a tremendous amount of support from the Central Government, and the Prime Minister indicated to me, just this morning, that his support gor the Municipality will continue, and I have no doubt and no fear that in partnership with them, we will continue to do some of the great works that we have been doing in the Municipality.”

.

 

The Council has projected much of its guaranteed sources of revenue to the municipal bond and focus on infrastructure. According to the Mayor, the bond is slowly but surely paying back itself.

.

Mayor Darrell Bradley

“The municipal bond is a big part of the carrying debt of the Belize City Council. You will see that the audit mentions a debt obligation of approximately 21 million dollars. A significant amount of that is the bond itself, and the first tranche of the municipal bond which is the 2 year bond was repaid on the 24th December, 2014, and the principal was repaid together with interest and that represented a payment of 1.5 million dollars or 7.5% of the bond, and the sinking fund which is being manage by the Central Bank has a comfortable surplus. So that the municipality is able to comfortably meet the repayments.”

.

With the bond repaying and careful reorganization of its financial portfolio, the Mayor says Belize City does not need a greater subvention from Central Government. The Mayor hinted at ways to make Belize City better for business, including a reduction in trade license.

.

vlcsnap-2015-01-08-06h26m25s88Mayor Darrell Bradley

“One of the things that I think we really need to talk about going forward is: How do we revamp the tax policy, the trade license tax in particular, in Belize City?  So we reduced that rate, and we were looking at reducing the rate by half, bringing it from 25% to 12.5%.

What that does is it brings down the cost of doing business in Belize City.  Instead of people going to Ladyville to operate a business, they come back in the city, and then you build from what New York can build from, which is volume.  You have more people in the city, and you have a smaller tax, but more people are paying a smaller tax.  I think that’s where we need to go.”
.

About the Author