COVID-19 response, econ recovery funding priority for Benguet capital

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By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Funds for Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response, and economic recovery programs will be given priority for La Trinidad’s 2021 budget.

Vice Mayor Roderick Awingan said they still have to deliberate of the town’s budget for next year. He said that despite the projected decrease of the town’s revenue brought by the pandemic, he assured that they would allot sufficient funds for COVID-19 recovery efforts.

“As to what economic programs, we will have to coordinate with the office of the mayor,” he added.

The vice mayor said there are also unnecessary expenses they can forgo, such as the budget for seminars and trainings.

The council decided to realign the budget for trainings and seminars for this year. They instead funded the reproduction of modules for public schools, purchase of protective gear for frontline workers, and financial assistance to victims of a recent fire that rendered 16 families homeless.

“We will have to make the most of what we have,” Awingan said.

According to Municipal Treasurer Norman Antero, the town’s income for 2020 will decrease due to the pandemic’s economic impact.

“Most businesses were closed during since March which means their income has drastically dropped, it follows that they would be paying lesser taxes,” he said.

The treasurer explained that business taxes collected for 2021 would be based on the current year’s gross income. He said they are looking at a 37% decrease in business tax collections next year.

“It can even be worse,” he said.

He said that they had collected over P60 million in business taxes this year. Their forecast the amount will drop to P40 million in 2021.

To help cushion the pandemic’s economic impact, the La Trinidad town council passed Ordinance 21-2020 in June. This extended the deadline for tax payment forgoing surcharges, penalties, and interests for taxes falling due during the second quarter when the government imposed the enhanced community quarantine.

Antero said they the town’s permits and licensing office has issued over 9,000 business permits this year.

The municipal treasurer also said that with the “rental holiday” on stalls at the town’s public market from March 17 to June 30, they will lose over P3 million.

On July 28, the town council passed Ordinance No. 22-2020, waiving stalls’ payment at the public market.

Antero explained that stall rentals at the public market are included in the town’s economic enterprises. He said this year’s revenue these enterprises, including income from the La Trinidad Valley Hotel, trading post, parking lot, and the public market and others, reached P41 million. But for 2021, they hope to earn at least P39 million.

Antero also said that all of the town’s other income sources would generate lower revenues. These include fees collected from the zoning ordinances, regulatory fees, and even garbage collection fees.

He said that his office projected a total of P406 million general fund for 2021. About P303 million will come from the town’s Internal Revenue Allotment, and P103 million will come from the town’s local taxes. # nordis.net

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