…no valuation in 2 decades The Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown (M&CC) on Thursday revealed that the reason it is cash-strapped is because of the large amount of debt it is owed by large businesses.According to Town Clerk Royston King, this totals over $4 billion. He informed media operatives that many large business enterprises are guilty of undervaluing their properties and assets, thus ensuring they pay less than they are legally required to.King stated that, in many instances, the business owners are paying a standard domestic rate when in fact they should be paying the commercial rate.“We have an amount outstanding of over $4B owed to this Council by mainly big businesses. Those who neglect to pay their rates and those who are undervaluing their properties so they are paying, for example, the commercial rates of 250 per cent, they’re paying the domestic rate of 40 percent,” the Town Clerk said.King explained that as long as a building is completely constructed, the proprietors would have to contact the Valuation Department, and thereafter the Council would calculate the correct amount of money that has to be paid. Those who do not adhere to these regulations would be hauled before the courts.“The property owners know that once they complete building, that they have to approach the Valuation Department for revaluation, and they have to approach the City Council so that we can calculate the correct amount of taxes or rates that they are expected to pay, and that they go ahead and pay it. In the event that they neglect and refuse to pay it, the matter is taken to the court.”Additionally, King noted that as it relates to a valuation procedure, the council has not had one in some two decades, which leaves a window open for these business owners to continue paying smaller amounts of monies.“The trouble we have (with) the process to recover outstanding sums from defaulters is [that] it is so cumbersome that it serves as a disincentive to the Council, (which) actually collects this money.Instead, it should be a deterrent, instead of serving as a disincentive. By the time you go through the process to actually collect the money and to actually have a judgment, so many years would have passed and so many things would’ve changed,” he said.As such, the M&CC is still required to supply the same quality of services for a lesser quantity of revenue. This, as a result, affects some of the projects which the Council should’ve embarked on, which includes the restoration of City Hall, which is currently in a deplorable state.The Town Clerk further explained, “So we are in a vicious circle, having to supply vital municipal services with very limited money, and we go on and on as the years goes by. We have not had valuation in over two decades, and as a result of that, we are really, really strapped for cash, and that is why some of the things you see, like the physical condition of the City Hall building.It is because the council doesn’t have the money to prepare, restore and preserve the building.”In March of this year, it was reported that the cost of the restoration exercise was estimated at some $400 million, and the project is a collaborative effort between the European Union (EU) and the National Trust of Guyana.