IT was a rollercoaster year for Kuala Lumpur folk, from the much awaited 13th general election to the landslide at Puncak Setiawangsa.
No issue dominated the headlines as much as the sudden notification by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to increase assessment charges for properties.
The announcement was met with anger by owners who were already feeling the sting from the removal of subsidies on essential items such as sugar and the petrol price increase.
KLites were shocked to receive notices on the increase in their property valuation and the corresponding hike that would raise their assessment charges from 100% to 250% and as high as 400%.
Many were dissatisfied by Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib’s justification for the hike by saying no revaluation had been done for 21 years.
They also said no valid reason was given on how the new property values were determined.
KL MPs and their constituents quickly rallied to made their displeasure known. Many residents associations (RAs) held protests and called for the notices to be revoked.
According to the notices, property owners had only a month to send in their objections which ended on Dec 17.
A day before the deadline, about 500 residents gathered at Dataran DBKL next to the City Hall headquarters to protest the proposed increase. More than 20,000 objection letters were handed over to Ahmad Phesal.
DBKL said only 153,187 objection letters were received before the deadline.
Admitted Tengku Adnan: “I agree our approach was quite harsh, the announcement went out in the form of a letter and not a notice and the communication was badly handled. But I have already said sorry to city folk.”
DBKL recently announced that the assessment rates would be slashed by two percentage points.
Commercial properties will be charged 10% while residential properties pay 4%, down from 12% and 6%, respectively.
Further rebates will also be given to disabled property owners, retirees and owner-occupied premises.The new rates will come into effect in the middle of next year, and ratepayers can still pay the current rates for the first half of2014.
Many said property rentals should not be used to justify the higher charges.
They said assessment collection is used to upkeep the city. The cost of patching up potholes and maintaining public facilities should not be determined by the rental amount.
City Hall could have avoided the negative reaction had it first notified residents and not simply sent them notices of the increase.
It also did not help that Tengku Adnan and his ministers continually made contradictory statements which further confused and angered the public.
However, some residents’ lackadaisical attitude toward the matter (as shown by the dismal number of objection letters) may just provide City Hall with the ammunition it needs to go ahead with the proposed hike.
Many property owners are still objecting to the revised rates saying the decrease is too insignificant to make a difference.
One thing is for certain though, the cost of living will only go up what with the increase in electricity tariffs and a speculated rise in toll rates, not to mention the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2015.