The Worcester Business Forum (WBF) recently secured a 51% buy-in from businesses within the central business district (CBD) to implement a Special Ratings Area (SRA).
An SRA is a demarcated area where an additional rate is levied by the local municipality which, in turn, is ring-fenced for special use in that specific area.
Enrico Shortles, project manager at WBF, told the Standard that 243 businesses out of a total 482 bought into the plan.
The proposed SRA will include property between Tulbagh,Durban,Somerset and Riebeeck Street.
“It took me about 14 months to get a majority percentage to proceed with the SRA plan. This is a shift towards a new beginning for Worcester, as this catalytic plan aims to revitalise the CBD,” said Shortles.
He explained that no residential properties within the SRA will be levied any additional rates, yet they will benefit dually from the upgrades and services to be rendered.
When the Standard questioned Shortles about the challenges he encountered in achieving a majority buy-in he stated: “Many business owners complained that they were already paying taxes for basic services and questioned the value of additional taxes. Another issue was that most of the business owners don’t live in Worcester, which made it difficult to get their buy-in.”
The SRA will be managed by the Worcester Business Improvement District (BID), a not-for-profit company.
In an official document of the BID, it states that the company’s aim is to facilitate the creation and sustained existence of a vibrant, thriving and economically prosperous area for the benefit of the residents, businesses and property owners.
Nik Wullschleger, chairman of the WBF, mentioned that BVM’s council has already approved and workshopped the draft SRA by-law and policy.
“The levy discussed on the rates component of the property bill is 10%. Which means that if a business is currently paying R500 per month on rates (excl. water and electricity) they will pay an additional R50 as a top-up,” said Wullschleger.
He added that an estimated R85000 per month, from businesses within the CBD, will be paid into a separate account of the Breede Valley Municipality. These funds will only be used for the upgrading and beautification of the SRA.
“The Worcester BID aims to make the CBD one of the most beautiful business precincts in the greater Boland. The aim is to create a clean and well maintained area which is rich in heritage, art and architecture. In addition to that, the creation of a safe and friendly place to shop, relax, visit and live in, which is accessible to all citizens young and old and to those less fortunate through disability,” said Wullschleger.
A public meeting will be held once the SRA by-law is promulgated.
Wullschleger said the purpose of the meeting will be to share the successes thus far, to explain the SRA plan, budget, prioritise projects and nominate additional directors to the board of the BID.
SPECIAL RATINGS AREA PLANNED FOR CBD.MATTHEW SHELDON Worcester Standard