There was good news for Athlone businesses this week as commercial rates in the town are set to decrease by 2.2 per cent.
The news was delivered at a budget meeting for Westmeath County Council in Mullingar on Monday. The reduction is part of a three year harmonisation process following the abolition of town councils. As part of this programme, businesses in Mullingar and the rest of the county will experience an increase of 2.2 per cent.
The budget was accepted after almost eight hours of deliberations with a few slight amendments. An extra €200,000 has been set aside in order to improve the condition of approximately 500 cul-de-sacs around the county, the money for which will come from any surplus in private residential tax. A big winner in this year’s budget was the Tidy Towns group, with prize money for winners increasing from €1,000 to €18,000.
County manager Pat Gallagher also confirmed that both Athlone and Mullingar have applied for funding for urban development projects, which if approved will lead to a €3 million investment in each town. In Athlone, this money is related to the planned regeneration of Church Street.
The chief executive said the past year has shown a stabilisation in the council’s revenue. He said: “While the council’s income is still hard earned, our staff are working hard to accrue income due to the council, including engaging with people who owe money to the council”. Mr Gallagher added that Budget 2016 will allow the council to maintain a reasonable level of services, engage in new areas of work, and provide infrastructure to ecourage investment and business in the county.
The stabilisation in the council’s finances has led to a slight overall increase in Budget 2016 in comparison to the previous year, increasing from €64.4 to €64.8 million.