BBMP, we are cessed' out

The BBMP is all set to now impose vehicle cess.

Bengaluru: If you don’t know why your property tax costs you so much then read this without blinking. Apart from paying tax for owning a house, you are also paying a tax for generating garbage, to support beggars, to promote education in state, and also now, for owning a vehicle!

The BBMP, which collects property tax, solid waste management cess, education cess, library cess and beggary cess, is all set to now impose vehicle cess.

While the Karnataka Municipalities Act has made provisions for the BBMP to collect vehicle cess up to 2 per cent of the property tax, the BBMP has still not decided who will pay what. BBMP sources said that while cess on two-wheelers will cost citizens less, owners of four-wheelers will shell out more.

BBMP Commissioner Kumar Naik said that the proposal is in its early stages and it was too soon to comment. “The cess funds will mainly be utilised for building good roads, parking facilities and other infrastructure," he maintained.
The city is now left to wonder what property owners without vehicles should pay and what vehicle owners without property should do!

In 2010, a BBMP Standing Committee (Major Works) under the chairmanship of H.Ravindra had recommended that vehicle cess be imposed under the pretext that roads had to be de-congested, for which the agency needed more funds. When the former BBMP council and state government did not welcome the suggestion, the proposal remained on paper.

Five years after the BBMP mulled over imposing vehicle cess on Bengalureans, the civic agency is now preparing to introduce a new tax. Under commissioner G.Kumar Naik, the BBMP is all set to give life to the Sec 103(C) of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, which has provisions for levying vehicle cess in order to improve the city’s infrastructure.

Read: Q & A with Ramalinga Reddy, Transport Minister: ‘Cess is good, BBMP desperately needs money’

The Act says, “ There shall be levied and collected an Urban Transport Cess at such rates not more than two percent on the property tax levied and collected under section 103 or 108A of this Act and which shall be rounded off to the nearest rupee. Nothing in this section shall affect the operation of the provisions of any other Act and the levy of Urban Transport Cess under this Act is in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other tax or cess that may be levied under any other law for the time being in force.”

The Act specifies, “All money collected in the form of Urban Transport Cess shall be credited to the Urban Transport Fund created under section 149A.” Commenting on the proposal, Mr Naik, said, “Many infrastructure projects have taken a backseat due to the lack of funds. We are exploring all sources of income to generate more revenue. If the proposal is approved by the state government, revenue generated from vehicle cess will be utilised to improve the infrastructure.”

He pointed out that providing better roads, parking facilities, timely asphalting of roads and improving toilets will be the primary utilisation of vehicle cess. When asked about the percentage of cess that would be levied, Mr Naik said that the BBMP had still not decided this and was working towards preparing the final proposal.

“We have just started working towards the proposal and it’s too early to decide how much more the citizens will have to pay. The proposal is still in its very early stages,” he maintained.

The cess mess

Solid Waste Management Cess as per built-up area

  • Area up to 1000 sq. ft. - Rs 10 per month
  • 1001 sq. ft. to 3000 sq. ft. - Rs 30 per month
  • Above 3000 sq. ft. - Rs 50 per month

Library Cess - 6% of the property tax
Beggary Cess - 3% of the property tax, 2% on the gross tax liability

Palike eyeing more funds

While the BBMP is eyeing more funds after burdening the common man with solid waste management cess, library cess, beggary cess and education cess, urban experts flayed the BBMP’s proposal, commenting that this ‘terrible’ scheme may never take off.

Asks Ashwin Mahesh, “What happens to the vehicle owners who don’t own property but own a bike or a car, and property owners who don’t have vehicles? If the Act says that vehicles’ cess will not be more than 2 per cent of the property tax, how will the agency decide who should pay what?”

Remarking that not many people knew what the BBMP was doing any more, Mr Mahesh suggested that the BBMP should increase the property tax if it’s bringing in more revenue. “If the focus is to generate more funds to improve the infrastructure, then the BBMP must look at revising the property tax. A planned, substantial revision will not cause any confusion,” he said.

Mr Mahesh stressed that as long as the basic weakness in the BBMP administration was not addressed, the agency will not be able to utilise any funds efficiently. “Quality of public works have to improve and an accountability has to be fixed for income and expenditure,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Citizens’ Action Forum secretary Mahalakshmi Parthasarathy suggested that the BBMP must do an audit before introducing any new tax. “On what basis can the BBMP decide to levy cess on citizens when we don’t know BBMP’s income and expenditure? The BBMP is not revealing how much it earns and on what works it is spending the money. Why should citizens keep paying more money when we don’t know where all the money is going?” she demanded.
Mahalakshmi emphasised the need for the state government to devolve funds to urban local bodies (ULBs) so that they are not always holding out the ‘begging bowl.’

“The ULBs like BBMP must have the freedom to spend its money and must involve citizens in planning of infrastructure works. When money is earned and spent in the right way, there will be no need to burden the common man so often,” she said.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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