Athlone rate-payers to gain as council harmonises rates

Business owners in Athlone could be looking at a decrease of 8.4 per cent in their commercial rates in the coming years as Westmeath County Council endeavour to introduce a single rate across the county.

Rates are calculated based on an Annual Rateable Valuation multiplier (ARV ) set by councillors at their annual budget meeting.

Prior to the local government reforms implemented earlier this year, businesses in the Athlone Town Council area were subject to an ARV of 59.51, while Westmeath County Council’s rate across the rest of the county was 52.27.

If the council decides to adopt a rate of 54.54, which would be the average of these two figures, this would result in an 8.4 per cent decrease for the ratepayers of the former Athlone Town Council area.

The council’s head of finance Jimmy Dalton explained that there is a legal requirement on the council to introduce a single ARV in County Westmeath, which can be done over a ‘harmonisation’ period of 10 years.

Members would need to “strike a balance between easing the burden on ratepayers and avoiding a negative impact on the income of the council”.

If the change was implemented over five years, 92 per cent of Athlone ratepayers would receive a reduction of €250 or less per annum.

However it would mean a 4.3 per cent increase in rates for ratepayers elsewhere in the county, with 92 per cent incurring an increase of €100 or less per annum.

Settling on the average rate of 54.54 would have no impact on the council’s income.

However, if councillors decided to reduce the overall rate to the current Westmeath rate of 52.27, there would be a resulting loss of €640,000 to the council.

Mr Dalton added that ratepayers would not pay any more or less in 2015 than they did in 2014 as an adjustment is to be applied in 2015 to neutralise any difference which might otherwise arise.

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