LOCAL Property Rates (LPT) levels in the county will remain at 2018 levels next year after councillors voted against a 15% reduction tabled by Sinn Féin.
County Council income would have been reduced by over €6m next year if the Sinn Féin motion was carried.
County Hall chief executive Tim Lucey said a 15% reduction would have led to the removal of funding for initiatives introduced since 2015 including the Town Development Fund, housing maintenance, playgrounds and parks maintenance, housing stock extensions, arts programmes and village enhancement funds.
Fianna Fáil’s Frank O’Flynn said LPT had given the Council “new opportunities” to provide services and a reduction would severely hit local communities.
Kevin Murphy of Fine Gael said money that is being paid by households is coming back to communities which are benefitting “substantially” through revenue generated by the tax.
However, Sinn Féin’s Melissa Mullane described LPT as a “punitive” tax which people cannot afford.
“It is a tax on their debt,” she added.
Before taking a vote on the reduction tabled by Sinn Fein, County Hall deputy chief executive Declan Daly urged councillors to maintain the current rate.
“We are all aware we are going into a period of uncertainty in relation to the city boundary extension issue. I would suggest we be prudent and adopt a conservative approach,” he said.
“A 5% reduction would equate to €20 a year for the majority of households. This is not very significant. We have additional costs in the coming year with €4.8m in pensions and pay and €9m in expenditure. It is a challenging environment for us,” he added.
He added that the Council will be dealing with a deficit in its forthcoming budget.
In a vote on Sinn Féin’s 15% reduction in LPT, 33 councillors voted against it and just four were in favour, while 36 representatives voted to maintain the current rate of LPT, with four voting against.
Almost 91% of households in the county are valued at under €250,000.
Mr Lucey said it is likely that the Council will have to dip into reserves again in the 2019 budget.
“In 2018, we budgeted on a deficit of €2.9m. Current indicators are, even with no variation to the LPT basic rate, there will be similar need for the use of the general revenue reserve to balance the budget. It is acknowledged this is not in line with our budget strategy. However, while it is important the Council aims to reduce the level of reserves it utilises for balancing… the Council must ensure it provides sufficient resources to meet or improve service delivery,” he added.