Councillor continues 13-year fight for a tax office in Junction, St Elizabeth

Councillor continues 13-year fight for a tax office in Junction, St Elizabeth

Editor-at-Large, South Central Bureau

Monday, January 25, 2021

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BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — After 13 years of trying, it is getting to the stage where many others would simply give up, but Cetany Holness, councillor for the Junction Division in St Elizabeth, says he remains totally committed to a campaign to get a tax collection centre in the fast-growing town.

“I won't drop this one,” declared an assertive Holness at the recent monthly meeting of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation.

Holness, who represents the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation, argued – for the umpteenth time – that a tax office in the facility would make the payment of taxes “easier” for people in the prosperous, fast-growing Junction and surrounding farm-rich communities.

He told the meeting that those who found reasons – such as the ability to carry out bill payments online – to suggest a tax office was not needed were being unrealistic and had lost touch with ordinary people.

“Whenever you put forward something which is very important to the life of always have someone that want to shoot it down,” said Holness.

“I cannot see, for the life of me, why this concept [of a tax collection centre in Junction] cannot be bought. It can't be the size of Junction, because Junction bigger than [some other towns with tax offices in rural Jamaica]. It can't be because you can now pay your bill online...If the online payment of fees is something that [most] Jamaicans are using, how come the line at the tax offices so long? How come lines at JPS [Jamaica Public Service Company] so long? How come lines at banks so long?” questioned Holness.

Over the years, successive central government administrations have been lobbied by the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation on the issue with no success, despite the identification of premises considered ideal for a tax collection centre in the underutilised market area in Junction.

Late last year, councillors took another step with a decision for mayor of Black River and chairman of the corporation, Derrick Sangster to write to Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke seeking permission for a delegation of St Elizabeth councillors to visit him at his Heroes' Circle, central Kingston, offices to discuss the issue.

“I think we have to pursue what we had planned at the last meeting [for a delegation] to meet the minister of finance...we need to get that going,” argued Holness.

Yesterday, Sangster told the Jamaica Observer that while the letter to Clarke had not yet been sent, it would be.

Back in 2008 when Holness moved his first resolution calling for the tax office, he argued that having to travel long distances to pay taxes in places like Mandeville, Santa Cruz and Black River was a turn-off for property owners and others, often leading to non-compliance.

“We must make it easy for them,” Holness said then – and he has not changed his tune since.

Holness has always enjoyed unanimous support from councillors on both sides of the political divide.

Thirteen years ago, Donovan Pagon (Peoples National Party- PNP), representing the Braes River Division, joined his JLP colleagues in robustly supporting Holness.

At that time Pagon argued that if the authorities genuinely wanted people to pay their taxes, “we have to help them with centres near to where they live and operate”.

At the most recent monthly meeting, Councillor Mugabe Kilimanjaro (PNP - Ipswich Division) argued much like Pagon did in 2008.

“If we are trying to get the parish to become financially stable we need to improve tax collection...,” said Kilimanjaro as he called for “some energy matching the urgency of the situation”.

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