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Mar 11, 2020

CitCo Opens Up its Books for Financial Review

Belize City Mayor Bernard Wagner was upbeat today saying that belt tightening has turned around the finances of City Hall.  According to the mayor, collections improved significantly and expenditures went down, all resulting in a healthy financial picture. At a press conference this morning, the mayor also said that now that the council is in good standing, it will be launching a bond to be able to deliver on campaign promises to city residents. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Since taking office in March 2018, the Belize City Council, led by Mayor Bernard Wagner, has been on a path of fiscal prudence, working persistently to improve the financial status of the municipal administration.  The first order of business upon assuming control of City Hall two years ago, was to audit its books.  During that exercise it was observed that various departments saw an increase in expenditure between 2014 and 2017 with no positive or commensurate results.  The outcome of that financial review ultimately served as a measure by which the council would then seek to turn around its standing.

 

Bernard Wagner

Bernard Wagner, Belize City Mayor

“It took my team and I many sleepless nights to restore some measure of fiscal sanity to the council’s accounts while re-imposing the prudential rules necessary for accountability, transparency and meaningful participation for good governance.  We recognized very early that good governance insists that we have transparency and accountability in the management of all our public affairs, thus this audit.”

 

The systematic evaluation, particularly of the efficiency and effectiveness of CitCo’s economic performance, was conducted by Cedric Flowers, a certified public accountant whose review dates back to the financial year ending March 31st, 2018.

 

Bernard Wagner

“Clearly you can see from a revenue standpoint that we went up nine percent and this very important.  That’s a benchmark.  In most businesses, when you get a ten percent growth that’s very good.  If you get five percent it’s good, so when you are in the area of ten percent you are doing extremely, extremely well.  So clearly you could see when compared to 2018 and 2019; March 31st, 2018 and March 31st, 2019 we grew by nine percent in terms of how we collected revenue.”

 

During that period City Hall was able to take in 2.1 million dollars in additional income and was, in return, able to minimize its overall expenses by 1.7 million dollars.

 

Bernard Wagner

“What made up that nine percent: property taxes, owing from $8.3 million that we collected in 2018 to $9.1 million in 2019.  When we took office, the previous council was mired in a, between sixty to sixty-five percent collection ratio.  We were able to challenge our staff and took it up to seventy-four percent.  So that means dollars.  At the end of the day it means more in your coffers.  The other driver was an aggressive approach by the valuation department to add new issued titles to the property roll.  Each and every year, people acquire lands and if not for our aggressive approach by our valuation department to have those properties included on the tax role we would be right back in the same situation the next year.”

 

In drawing revenue from various areas of operation, the Belize City Council also realized another 1.5 million dollars from its traffic department.

 

Bernard Wagner

“Revenues for traffic, when compared to 2018, increased by thirty-two percent, going from four point five million in 2018, to six million in 2019.  That’s performance.  Again this was driven by traffic wardens’ proactive approach in enforcing traffic laws and an increase in registered vehicles and licenses.  These are the two major revenue earners for the traffic regime.”

 

When everything has been taken into account, CitCo’s reversal of fortune is attributed to austerity; politics, however, won’t allow Mayor Bernard Wagner to look beyond the shortcomings of his predecessor.

 

Bernard Wagner

“All ah dis money off tourism go to the Darrell Bradley bond, right.  Da go to fu he bond weh he strap we, ih tek all fu we money and he set it aside fu pay di bond fi di cement streets dehn weh di bruk up.  Funding from G.O.B., dis da di paat ya weh ah wahn unu pay keen attention.  Funding from G.O.B. decreased by forty-five percent going from two point nine million in 2018 to one point six million in 2019 and da one point six million noh come da we.  Dat go direct to Central Bank fu pay fi Darrell Bradley bond.  So ah put da lee notice da bottom deh fu mek unu could see it.  So you could clearly see that government has pulled back everything from us.  So we at this council have performed extremely well given the conditions that we met.”

 

Chest-beating and self-gratification aside, while the administration has been able to reduce the debt it inherited by focusing on revenue collection and paying off creditors, it is yet to deliver fully on various assurances given to residents at the time of the 2018 municipal elections.  CitCo intends to float another short-term municipal bond in order to fulfill those campaign promises. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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