Vital services largely survive as rates are frozen for third year

For a third year in a row Westmeath businesses will not have to face a rate increase, it was revealed at the annual budget meeting held in the County Buildings on Monday, December 20. The annual rate on valuation was again set at €52.27.

“The past three years has seen a sharp contraction in central government funding and a collapse in discretionary funding income particularly associated with planning and an increasingly difficult debtor management environment,” warned county manager, Danny McLoughlin.

The county will cost just under €67 million to run in 2011, down from €70 million three years ago, due mainly to 75 temporary and contracted staff being let go over that period.

Other savings made in this time have been €0.9m with a 50 per cent cut in overtime, and an estimated €0.5m in efficiencies achieved since moving to the new headquarters.

However, the finance department still had a number of constraints to factor in to balance this budget, the biggest of which is the €1.65 million in irrecoverable rates, a figure that has more than doubled from €700,000 since 2007.

The funding from central government is also down by €1.5 million, the closure of Ballydonagh landfill has seen €0.7m in landfill charges removed from the coffers, whilst a drop in water subventions and road grants, and new car parking VAT rules have taken another half a million from the equation.

In total, the finance department under acting head, Jimmy Dalton, had a shortfall of €1.8m to find. Just under a million of this was found in Croke Park agreement savings, tenant purchase scheme savings, and interest rate speculation on the new County Building mortgage. An additional half a million was taken from the capital allocation left for the now defunct multi-storey car park.

Public pensions, public lighting, second home tax, and better investigation of self-assessed tax is expected to bring in another €230,000. The community and voluntary budget of €764,000, and the graveyard maintenance fund of €450,000 will each be trimmed back by €50,000.


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