Saturday, 1 March 2014

8 town councils raise service, conservancy charges from April 2014

By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2014

HALF a million residents in estates managed by eight town councils will pay higher service and conservancy charges (S&CC) from April 1.

This is the first increase in 10 years for seven of the town councils - Ang Mo Kio, Marine Parade, Moulmein-Kallang, Nee Soon, Pasir Ris-Punggol, Potong Pasir and Sembawang. The eighth, Jurong Town Council, last raised its charges in 2010.

The overall increase is 50 cents to $13 a month, depending on flat type. The hike will be done in two steps, with the first increase this April and the second, in April next year.

Those living in one- and two-room rental flats will face smaller increases of 50 cents to $2, while those in three-room flats will pay on average $4.60 more; four-room, $6; and five-room, $7.10. The top rate of $13 may be for executive flats or five-room DBSS.

The town councils cited higher electricity, maintenance and operation costs as the main reasons for the hike.

Sembawang Town Council, which announced the increase yesterday for all eight town councils, said they resisted S&CC increases for 10 years, and even when the inflation rate spiked to 6.6 per cent in 2008.

But it was getting harder to operate at current S&CC rates, with several town councils running into operating deficits, it added.

Electricity accounts for the lion's share of town councils' cost increases.

Utilities make up 35 per cent of operating costs and power tariffs shot up by 66 per cent between 2004 and last month, from 15.44 cents per kilowatt hour to 25.65 cents per kwh.

The town councils also said that most towns have undergone the Lift Upgrading Programme, adding 1,800 new lifts and 3,800 upgraded lifts that stop on every floor. Every new lift in a 12-storey block costs the town council another $3,300 a year to maintain and run.

The eight town councils will spend a total of $7.2 million more a year to upkeep and run these new and upgraded lifts, with costs set to go up as more new lifts are built in the next couple of years.

Maintenance and operation costs will rise further too as more covered walkways, car porches, hard courts, playgrounds and fitness corners are built.

The eight town councils said they were breaking the hike into two parts to reduce its impact on residents.

From April 1, fees for homes will go up by 50 cents to $8.50, depending on flat type. Commercial units will pay 10 cents to 21 cents per sq m more, and cooked food stalls, $9.90 to $15.83 more.

The second hike is from April 1 next year. Home owners will pay up to $6.50 more; commercial units, seven cents to 11 cents more per sq m; cooked food stalls, $9.50 to $12 more.

Eight town councils tightening purse strings
They are cutting costs as service and conservancy charges go up
By Goh Chin Lian And Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2014

THE eight People's Action Party run town councils that are raising their service and conservancy charges (SCC) this April are trying their best to rein in rising costs, Sembawang Town Council chairman Hawazi Daipi said yesterday.

They will be prudent in their spending and explore cost-saving measures, such as energy-efficient lighting and bulk procurements.

They will also work with Members of Parliament and community organisations to help residents who have difficulty paying.

Mr Hawazi, a Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Education, Manpower), also welcomed the Budget's one-off SCC rebates of one to three months for flat dwellers.

On cost-saving measures, Sembawang Town Council's use of energy-efficient lighting has saved it more than $1 million a year in electricity costs since 2004, its general manager Soon Min Sin said.

This is why despite a 66 per cent rise in electricity tariffs in the past 10 years, its total utilities cost has gone up by a lower 45 per cent, he said.

Jurong Town Council installed LED lighting and solar panels in HDB blocks to save energy and cope with rising electricity tariffs.

It also re-used roof slabs in its re-roofing programme of 85 blocks, which saved about $2.13 million.

Even so, it is the only town council in the group of eight that increased its SCC in 2010. The other seven last raised their charges in 2004.

Jurong Town Council chairman David Ong said it faced a 9 per cent increase in electricity tariffs, from 23.56 cents per kwh in April 2010 to $25.65 cents per kwh last month.

Also, the cost of running and maintaining the lifts has gone up by 43 per cent, as more lifts were added to its HDB and carpark blocks. There has also been a 195 per cent increase in the cost of grass cutting and horticulture maintenance costs from three years ago, he said.

This is why the town council, which raised its SCC by 50 cents to $3.60 in 2010, is increasing it by up to $4.40 by April 1 this year.

A quick street poll of 10 residents living in Ang Mo Kio found that most thought the fee hikes were reasonable.

Ms Shalini Rina, 37, an administrative assistant who lives in a one-room rental flat, will see her SCC go up by 50 cents in April. She said: "For us, the increase is not much. We can afford it."

Operations manager Amos Raj, 55, who lives in a three-room flat in the area, said the rate increase was "reasonable". His SCC goes up by $2.50 this April and another $3 in April next year. "I do (give) feedback to the town council on issues like cleanliness, and they are very on the ball," he said.

Housewife Lim Geok Lian, 37, lives in a three-room flat and said: "If we pay an extra $2 or $3 and they get another worker to clean it up, I don't mind."

SCC charges are tiered according to flat type. Those who live in one- and two-room flats pay the least for SCC, experience the smallest fee hikes and enjoy more rebates.

One-roomers in Ang Mo Kio, for example, now pay $18.50 a month, before the increase. Two-roomers pay $26.50 a month.

At the other end of the spectrum, those living in an executive flat pay under $77.50. The highest charge is $83 for a Design and Build executive flat.

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