Special Correspondent

COIMBATORE: Coimbatore Corporation's budget for the 2007-08 fiscal may be presented next week. Sources in the Corporation say March 5 is being considered as among the possible dates for the presentation. But, nothing is clear now as a decision will be taken only after Corporation Commissioner P. Muthuveeran returns from Chennai on March 1, they say.

The Commissioner will be in Chennai to finalise various schemes for the city under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi launched here on February 24 two schemes - one for drinking water and the other for solid waste management.

The Corporation is making all-out efforts to have projects for the development of slums, underground sewers and improvements to road transport cleared by the Central Government by March 31. The sources say that the Corporation is forced to focus more on these schemes now as it has very little time on hand to get surveys done, detailed project reports prepared and submitted to the State and Central Governments for clearance.

The sources, however, say that the budget will list out some of the schemes that will take off early this year. The others may also find a place as part of the Corporation's vision statement.

But, the fallout of the uncertainty over the announcement of a presentation date till now is speculation that the civic body may be planning a hike in Property Tax and drinking water charge. With the mission laying stress on enough revenue mobilisation by local bodies to enable loan repayment, there is a feeling that the Corporation may want to hike at least the water charge. Officials have been pointing out that the minimum charge of Rs.3.50 per 1,000 litres (up to 50,000 litres) is bringing loss for the Corporation. The civic body pays Rs.4.50 as the minimum rate to the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board. Officials have been saying for the last three years that the charge collected from the people must be fixed above the rate paid to the water board.

Official sources say the mission directorate had asked while clearing the Pilloor Phase II water scheme how the Corporation would wipe out the loss it made by selling water at a rate lesser than it paid the board. If the Corporation plans to raise the charge, this can be a strong reason, they say.