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Mobile property tax collection unit makes positive impact in St. Elizabeth

From the Jamaica Observer: Black River, St Elizabeth — The figures show gradual improvement year by year, but St Elizabeth remains among the most backward regions in terms of property tax collections.

In late February, the south coast parish was running a 58 per cent property tax compliance rate for the 2016-17 financial year which will end on March 31. That’s up from 52 per cent at the same point the previous year, but still $300 million behind where tax collectors say it should be.

No wonder then that St Elizabeth tax collectors recently welcomed with open arms, a new pilot project aimed at boosting collections using a mobile unit (small bus) to get to property owners in their communities.

“We are looking to see how we can collect and maximise our efforts between now and the end of March and this project certainly helps,” Dwayne Elliott senior compliance officer, St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation, told the Jamaica Observer Central.

A visit by the mobile unit over three days to a number of communities including Lacovia, Siloah, Mountainside, Treasure Beach among others, netted in excess of $777,000, Elliott later told Observer Central. Crucially, tax collection and compliance personnel from the municipal corporation and the tax department were able to interact with people regarding their tax status and how best to pay, he said.

At Siloah, several property owners said the visit of the mobile unit had saved them a costly and time-consuming trip to the tax office in Santa Cruz, 20 miles away.

Mayor of Black River and chairman of the St Elizabeth municipal corporation, Derrick Sangster, councilor for the Siloah Division Audie Myers (PNP) and Diana Sutherland, acting director of finance at the municipal corporation were among those visiting Siloah to encourage property owners to pay their taxes.

“Property taxes go a long way in helping local authorities to carry out their functions,” said Sangster (JLP) who is councillor for the Mountainside Division. “These are the revenues that help us to pay for some of our most vital expenses including street lights and collection of garbage,” he added.

Myers pointed to the value of the mobile service especially for elderly folk who find it difficult to travel.

“You have a lot of old people who would have a hard time going to Santa Cruz and back, so this (mobile tax collection service) is very useful. I am looking forward to seeing it continue and expanded,” he said.