(Photo: Willemien Timmers, Oegstgeester Courant).
The residents of Oegstgeest will pay more in municipal taxes in the coming years. This is stated in the draft coalition agreement that the groups Progressive Oegstgeest, D66 and Hart voor Oegstgeest will present to the village and the council on Wednesday. The parties call the increase in the tax burden inevitable in view of the difficult financial situation in which the municipality finds itself.
According to the new coalition, it is impossible in the current economic context to keep the municipality’s debt ratio below 130 percent. Exceeding this percentage is seen as undesirable, but opinions are strongly divided. For example, Leiden municipality’s debt ratio has been significantly higher over the years and will exceed 200 percent in the coming years. Leiden sees no problem as long as all obligations can be met, and that is the case. As a supervisor, the province has also given the green light to the Leiden figures so far. The situation in Oegstgeest is different in the sense that for years Leiden has calculated interest rates much higher than the actual interest rate. Every year when interest rates are lower, a larger reserve is built up to absorb future increases. Oegstgeest has no such reserve.
Despite all the challenges in the field of economics and the municipal organization, the new coalition also aims for an independent Oegstgeest. However, cooperation within the region needs to be further intensified. For example, in the areas of sustainability, economics, accessibility and implementation of youth care and the Social Assistance Act (WMO).
The three parties have identified four major challenges in their agreement. Dealing with the difficult economic situation, eliminating delayed maintenance on bridges and roads, tackling the housing shortage and further shaping the energy transition. All of these things require additional resources. In addition, the municipality will in the coming years allocate more money to its own organization. “A strong official organization and a better involvement of the residents in the administration is crucial for the municipality’s independent survival”, wrote PrO, D66 and HvO. Against these higher staff costs, there are more and better civil servants who must also earn more subsidies to the municipality.
The three parties mainly see The Hague as the cause of the bad economy. Additional tasks without sufficient resources, the ban on taxing underground cables and pipelines and the redistribution of funds from the Municipal Fund, which means that Oegstgeest will receive less in the coming years, are important reasons for the gloomy situation.
Increase in property tax
According to the new coalition, the difficult economic situation in which the municipality finds itself is due to rising interest rates combined with the accumulated overdue maintenance, necessary investments in school buildings and disappointing government revenues. “Therefore, significant interventions are needed, including an increase in property taxes.” It would already increase by ten percent in 2023, another fifteen percent is now coming. The tourist tax will also rise sharply by 23 per cent. The coalition wants to make the cost-effectiveness of the waste tax, the sewer tax and the fees.
In addition to increasing the tax burden, the new coalition parties are also cutting their own flesh. However, there is not much that can be achieved within the municipal organization, it appears from the draft agreement. The parties achieve no more than three thousand euros in savings within their own organization.
Last year, a multi-year maintenance plan (MJOP) was prepared to gain insight into the obligations that the municipality must assume in the coming years for (abolition of) maintenance of the public space. A worrying picture emerged from this inventory of the delayed maintenance of municipal infrastructure, such as bridges and roads. These huge backlogs lead to large investments that Oegstgeest has not spared. In fact, this also applies to educational housing. The new council must seek alternative forms of funding to realize this program.
The new coalition will still implement as many proposals as possible, which have already been decided by the municipal council. However, projects have been postponed and only completed when space has been created for these investments. “On top of that, there is no economic scope for further investment,” warns coalition parties. Spending more would create an unacceptable financial situation. It has been agreed in the agreement that a reserve will now be created, from which as many projects as possible will be implemented as soon as possible.
In order to move forward with the solution of the housing crisis, PrO, D66 and HvO want to realize the already established building plans as soon as possible. The starting point is still the preservation of the village’s green character. It means ‘red for red’. Red refers to buildings, so new construction projects can only replace existing buildings. In housing construction, the coalition is paying particular attention to minimum incomes, starters and the elderly who want to leave a single-family home and move on.
Construction sites for housing
Specific places where additional housing can be built are also mentioned in the agreement. For example, the KPN stock exchange in Admiral de Ruyterlaan can be converted into housing by the owner Portaal. There is space in the Hofbrouckerparken for smaller care complexes, but this should not be at the expense of park areas. At the La France site, starter and nursing homes with a maximum height of eighteen meters can be built. Almondehoeve is also on the list of places to be transformed. In the case of the coalition, it is also permitted to build on the site where the greenhouses currently stand.
The location of the Leo Kanner School on Hazenboslaan is also included in the picture as a residential location, but this will only be possible after the renovation of the Gevers-Deutz Terwee School has been completed. During the renovation, there will still be a need for the outdated school building as a temporary teaching location. One last residential location mentioned in the plans is Overgeest. This is the area behind the town hall.
A final, limited option for housing is the high-voltage route, which runs along the Poelgeest district, among other places. If the high-voltage masts can be replaced by ground cables, extra space will be created, but the green ribbon should remain undeveloped as much as possible.
To make Oegstgeest more sustainable and the energy transition, the coalition will enter into dialogue with social organizations, residents and entrepreneurs. “We consider participation in the planning of projects that directly affect the living environment very important,” the agreement states. In addition to making the village more climate-adapted, there are concrete conditions for maintaining a recycling function and installing more containers for the return of glass, paper and clothes. They are also emptied more often.
Next year, due to agreements entered into in the climate agreement in Paris, an additional hundred kilos of residual waste per capita can be generated. By 2030, it should have dropped to thirty kilos. Oegstgeest threatens not to make it. The coalition parties therefore want to gain insight from municipalities that are already under a hundred kilos, and adapt the waste system accordingly. Households that are proven to produce less waste will pay less.
Thirty kilometers per hour is becoming the norm throughout the village. Trucks are kept out of residential areas as much as possible. Refilling can then be done using pick-up locations. If it really does not work, then it can only be done within specified window times.
Noise pollution from the A44 has demonstrably increased over the last ten years. It will turn Oegstgeest at a maximum speed of eighty kilometers per hour on the highway in combination with better noise barriers. Preferably with solar panels. The pauses in the screens must be closed. Dealing with noise nuisance from air traffic is also on the list of focus points. Oegstgeest, together with the region, wants to argue for a reduction of Schiphol.
To make the shopping areas more attractive, temporary rentals are allowed on Lange Voort and De Kempenaerstraat. For example, the coalition wants to give (artistic) pop-ups a chance. Store owners can also decide for themselves whether they want to open on Sunday morning. The purchasing time provision will be adjusted accordingly. The college also arranges a monthly consultation hour for entrepreneurs.
Until 2026, the Hoefijzer building will be available for the reception of refugees. In the longer term, Oegstgeest wants to see if a regional reception center can be established in the village.
The new coalition wants to bring together cultural institutions around Lange Voort as much as possible. This includes a modern multifunctional library. Oegstgeest is put even more emphatically on the map as a writer’s village.
According to the three parties, the coming years will be difficult due to the economic situation. Nevertheless, the new coalition believes it can meet all the challenges. “With a solid team of councilors and political groups involved, we will meet the above challenges and continue to build on a sustainable Oegstgeest.”
Oegstgeest Politics Local elections 2022 Oegstgeest