A delegation of four went to Nassau on November 25, 2015 to meet with Treasury officials in the Prime Minister’s office to firm-up details for collecting property taxes locally for forwarding to The Treasury in Nassau.
The trip had been planned well in advance and Treasury personnel were prepared for the Hope Town delegation. Legislation was enacted last summer allowing local government collection of property taxes on behalf of The Treasury. A critical element of this program is that local government will be given a small percentage of the taxes collected.
Although the legislation is in place, working details or regulations are being formulated along with the per cent to be retained locally. As a result of this recent meeting, Chief Councillor Sweeting is expecting to have working details soon.
Any funds retained under this scheme are for capital improvements to the affected district. These funds are to be above government’s normal funding for recurrent expenses within the district.
Although the legislation is effective for the entire country, it is possible that it may be implemented initially in the Hope Town District as they are prepared to move forward. Mr. Sweeting has been in contact with government officials for over five years attempting to have this collection scheme implemented.
When implemented, this will be government’s second major move in nineteen years at changing local government rules to more closely follow world-wide practices.
The first significant change was taking away local government authority to issue business licenses due to perceived issues with local favoritism or retaliation. The change removed seven local people from the licensing process who approved or denied business licenses. Now one person appointed by government has complete authority to issue business licenses and who government assumes will be free of favoritism or other issues.
A recent license allowing the sale of beer and wine issued to a Man-O-War restaurant illustrates how decisions made this way can be heavy-handed or tone-deaf. The town has historically neither allowed nor desired liquor to be sold or served publically on the island. Local government made many unsuccessful attempts on behalf of Man-O-War residents to prevent this license being issued.
The Bahamas is one of the last countries world-wide to implement local government and allowing many local issues to be decided at the district level. However, central government has shown in the past that it is reluctant to loosen its grip on local matters.
Making the one day trip were Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting, Councillor Glenn Laing, Council Secretary Marjorie Chapman, and Senior Administrator Preston Cunningham.