Eye on polls, BMC to shun tax hikes

  • Laxman Singh, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 03, 2016 01:45 IST
The official also said that the BMC’s major source of revenue — octroi — will continue for another year and that no revenue shortfall is expected. (File Photo)

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) budget for 2016-17 is unlikely to burden you with more taxes. The budget, which will be presented by civic chief Ajoy Mehta on Wednesday, is likely to focus on completing ongoing infrastructure projects and avoid any new tax proposals as civic elections are scheduled for early next year. This year’s budget is expected to be around Rs 35,000 crore — the highest of any civic body in the country.

“There is no possibility of increasing taxes since this will be the last budget before the civic elections next year. No ruling party would like to burden voters with taxes ahead of the elections,” said a senior civic official, who did not wish to be named.

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The official also said that the BMC’s major source of revenue — octroi — will continue for another year and that no revenue shortfall is expected. Keeping octroi in place will help the civic body avoid hiking taxes in an election year.

“The Goods and Services Tax (GST) was supposed to replace octroi, but is yet to start. So next year too, the civic body’s financial condition is expected to be good,” said the official.

Considering the civic elections, the civic body may withhold the annual 8% hike in water tax. However, this depends on how much expenditure the water department incurs in the year. The slum taxation plan, which was expected to be implemented from April 1, is also likely to be put on hold. The tax on slums may face opposition from all political parties, owing to their fear of an adverse reaction from slumdwellers, who comprise more than half of the city’s electorate.

Senior civic officials said the BMC will focus on quality of work and execution of ongoing projects rather many new announcements.

Big-ticket projects such as the coastal road, Goregaon-Mulund Link Road (GMLR), the Gargai-Pinjal water supply project, and developing business hubs under the smart city project will be prioritised in this year’s budget. The budgetary provisions for the coastal road, GMLR and Gargai-Pinjal project are likely to be increased to expedite them. While the coastal road and GMLR are at the peer-review stage, Gargai-Pinjal project is undergoing a technical feasibility study.

A senior civic official said, “The allocations for key departments such as roads, gardens, fire brigade and education are likely to be less than last year’s as no new projects are likely to be announced. However, the allocations for other departments, such as solid waste management, water, storm-water drains and bridges will increase. The total budget for 2016-17 is expected to be around Rs 35,000 crore.”

Under the union government’s Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, the solid waste management may be allotted nearly Rs 300 crore to build toilets.

The garden department, however, is expected to face budget cuts as there are few plots available for development. An officer from the garden department said, “Since we have fewer plots to develop, our focus will be on maintaining open spaces. Last year many plots were proposed for development and work is ongoing, so we need less money this year.”

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