Councillors in the Ballina Municipal District unanimously decided against accepting the draft budgetary plan presented to them at this week’s monthly meeting of the Municipal District.
€390,000 was the proposed budget allocation to the district for 2018, with a proportion of that to be taken off the top to match other funding. In 2017 the Municipal District received €591,000.
Speaking following the presentation of figures, Fianna Fail councillor Michael Loftus said there was no way he could accept the proposed budget as “We have already made commitment of over €100,000 in Knockmore for next year. On top of that we have a capital project for the Ballina Military Barracks which is for €1 million. I have said before that there is nothing worse than a bad budget for us (councillors ) and this is a bad budget. I cannot accept it as it’s not enough to put into local projects in the municipal area such as the Arts Centre and Mayo North.”
Agreeing with Cllr Loftus, Independent Councillor Seamus Weir said he is “shell-shocked at what we see here today. We have done well over the years backing the area that we represent and that is under threat with this allocation. I see it as a disrespect to myself and my fellow councillors to see such a large drop in funding. I cannot accept it.”
Independent councillor Gerry Ginty voiced his fury at the proposed allocation, stating; “I look at how the whole system operates in Mayo and wonder how things are actually worse than last year. Where has all the money gone? We have failed badly in this area on roads and footpaths. Some of the footpaths haven’t been touched in 40 years. I am very angry about what’s going on and I cannot be involved in the adoption of anything that will impede funding for organisations that are promoting Ballina. I don’t accept this.”
Fine Gael representative John O’Hara expressed his disappointment, “I am disappointed about the cutback in funding because we do need what we got last year. We cannot accept any less than that. Every place and organisation in the are has been getting better and we need the funding to keep that going.”
Fianna Fail’s Michael Smyth believes the shortfall is far too significant, “The local authority have asked community groups to undertake what it used to cover and now we are going to have to tell these groups there is no funding for them. It’s unacceptable.”
Fine Gael councillor Neil Cruise believes councillors need to shoulder the blame for a poor budget allocation; “We’re in a far worse situation than last year and while we can blame the executive, we have to take some blame as councillors for letting go of some matching funding for capital projects. We need to assert ourselves much more this year and take control of the budget.”
New Director of Services at Mayo County Council, Tom Gilligan, responded to councillors concerns saying “the reality is we have to go through a process and while it is not perfect it’s the one we have. We’d all love if there was more money but the reality is that we don’t. We need to balance the books and not end up in hot water like a neighbouring local authority has.”
En masse every councillor said they cannot accept the budget proposal so it will return to the planning phase before the annual county budget is presented later this month.