At a Finance Committee meeting of Westmeath County Council earlier this month, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke expressed deep concern regarding the commercial rates revaluation appeals process and the negative impact the outcomes of those appeals may have on the county’s budget for the calendar year.
“All commercial premises in the county were revalued in recent years, with the new rates impacting from last year. This was part of a nationwide revaluation programme. Each rate payer was given the opportunity to appeal their allocated rates bill in a process that started in early 2018.
“While the appeals process is underway, the ratepayer is not required to discharge their rates bill, it is effectively deferred until the Valuation Tribunal makes its determination and then the revised bill is backdated to 2018,” Cllr. O’Rourke remarked.
The Fianna Fail Councillor noted that in excess of one hundred appeals were in process momentarily.
“Only weeks into this year budget and a potential ‘juggernaut’ is fast approaching. There are 114 appeals underway for Westmeath. The larger rate payers are primarily the ones who have appealed. The value of the total original rates bill for these 114 businesses is €2,500,000. The emerging trend from the Valuation Tribunal, regarding the appeals they have adjudicated on, would suggest that they are reducing the original amount by approximately 30 percent. Of the 24 appeals for which they have issued a finding, the businesses saw their combined rates bill reduce from €103,500 to €73,000. The Council therefore takes a hit of €30,500 for both 2018 and 2019,” the Councillor continued.
Cllr. O’Rourke added that if such a trend were to continue, the local authority would find itself in “challenging territory”.
“If you apply the emerging trend to the full appeal value of €2,500,000, then the possibility is that the total ‘write-off’ will be in the region of €1,500,000 in this current year (€750,000 x 2018 and 2019 ). Obviously this could and would have a detrimental impact on this year’s budget. In these circumstances we would have to consider an emergency budget or a mini budget where all areas of income and expenditure would have to be reviewed line by line, with an inevitable impact on service delivery across the board.
“I have asked the Council Executive to engage with the Valuations Tribunal as a matter of urgency to understand their rationale behind the cuts to these rates bills. My concern is that they are simply applying a lazy discount to all appeals in order to move the process on, without understanding the impact of their decisions on local authorities. My understanding is that there has been engagement between the two parties in recent days, a situation which I will continue to monitor closely,” Cllr. O’Rourke concluded.