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The ZELS Committee of Councils held its third session
2 јули 2019
 

 

The ZELS Committee of Councils held its third session on July 4th 2019 at the premises of the Association. The attendees were informed about the recommendations and conclusions from the meeting of the Managing Board of ZELS with the President of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, which was also attended by counselors from his Cabinet and which took place on June 22nd, 2019 in Struga. At the meeting was agreed a timeframe on the dynamics of activities that lead to the direction as of January 1st, 2020 to begin the realization of the new wave in the strategic development of decentralization of the local government in the country, the provision of the greater financial stability of the local government units and gradual transferring of the competencies from central to local level, in the areas where it will be assessed that is possible and necessary. Particular emphasis was put on re-examining the possibilities for providing greater inflow of funds from the municipalities' own sources of income, such as the property tax. Almost all municipalities use the lowest rate of legally determined opportunities (0.1% to 0.2%) to calculate this tax. At the meeting was discussed the possibility for municipalities to start using the upper legal boundary for calculating the property tax, for which all mayors should agree, and then the Council of each municipality will decide on the proposal. This issue also opened the debate at the session of the General Assembly of ZELS, which is the highest body of the Association, where it was concluded to recommend to all members to build a common position on the issue of determining a uniformly increased property tax rate.

The members of the Committee were informed that ZELS has already sent such a letter to all mayors and that the answers they receive are in the direction of accepting this proposal. In this way, local authorities will send a message to the central government that they are ready to support requests for greater financial independence with their own measures to utilize the legal possibilities for securing finance from their own revenues. Also, these funds will be of direct benefit to the citizens in each municipality, as they will directly fulfill the budget of the municipality.

The attendees supported this proposal, but pointed out that for the realization of this step, the most difficult decisions were taken by the councilors. They pointed out that the councils would need a lot of support for the implementation of an appropriate strategy or campaign to inform citizens about the utility of increasing the tax rate on this tax. It was stated that such activities are swift and that it is perhaps better, first, in a given period of time, all municipalities to dedicate maximum efforts to the implementation of legal obligations, that is, to carry out appropriate activities in accordance with the Law. More precisely, each municipality should determine the complete database of facilities subject to such taxation and carry out a full re-assessment of the value of the properties being taxed according to the current methodology and, of course, to ensure full tax revenue collection. With this, in most municipalities, the budget will be drastically increased, and reactions of the citizens who regularly pay the tax will be reduced, against those whose property is not recorded, that pay very low value or do not pay taxes at all.

The members of the Committee were also informed about the issue of determining the amount of the fee for “legalization” of illegally built constructions in the period after the entry into force of the Law on Treatment of Illegally Constructed Buildings, that is, built after March 3rd, 2011. The proposed measure is such as to determine the legal status of an illegal construction that was built after March 3rd, 2011, only provided that it can be integrated into the urban planning documentation, and that an additionally increased percentage of the regular amount of compensation for arranging construction land - popularly called “communal costs” is paid. The range of determining the amount of the fee, according to this measure, was debated to move from double the fee regularly determined for the specific planning zone, through the amount of 120% and up to 150% of the regularly determined amount of such fee.

The attendees pointed out that they also see many positive changes with such proposal, pointing out that it is necessary not to allow the same “errors” as those with the Law on Treatment of Illegally Constructed Buildings, when everything was set at the same starting position. Namely, they inquired how to deal with constructions built outside the construction area, where the municipality did not adopt an urban plan or other planning document for a long period of time. The question was raised how will, constructions that have an auxiliary role in agriculture be treated, facilities belonging to persons recipients of social assistance and such.

A representative of the Committee of Councils pointed out that ZELS should react in a timely manner to changes in the Law on games of chance and entertainment, especially in the section dedicated to the conditions where such facilities can be opened. Instead of using spatial distance, or how many meters to distance this object from schools, cultural, health and other institutions, it was proposed to be prescribed that such facilities can be established only in hotels or shopping centers. In this way, the protection of “vulnerable groups” from such vices will be ensured, while ensuring that taxes on profits from games of chance is an additional income for the municipalities.

At the end of the meeting, the members of the Committee of Councils concluded that by the end of August should organize meetings with the presidents of the councils from the municipalities in their planning region, where they will discuss in greater detail the proposals and will adopt certain positions. In addition, a representative from ZELS was invited to attend these meetings in order to adequately present the positive sides of the proposals. The Executive Director of ZELS, Dusica Perisic, pointed out that the ZELS Committee of Councils should more intensively introduce the councilors to the role and strategic goals of ZELS, which is one of its more important roles. She emphasized that all councilors are receiving the “ZELS Newsletter” where all activities of the bodies and organs of the Association, are collected together with initiatives, proposals, successes, meetings with domestic and foreign institutions and organizations, municipal administration trainings, IT systems maintained by ZELS and used by municipalities and such. It was also pointed out that ZELS, in cooperation with UNDP, are implementing the project “Strengthening Municipal Councils”. A UNDP representative was invited at this session to inform the Committee of Councils about the activities of the project implemented from November 1st, 2018 until June 31st, 2019. Therefore, she requested the members of the Committee to regularly inform the other presidents of the councils about all activities of ZELS and then to convey their views to the Association, in order to undertake further appropriate procedures for improving the role of councilors in the local government.



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