Galway city manager Brendan McGrath has confirmed that he will have “no hesitation” in recommending the adoption of the 2014 Budget which he describes as “positive” and one that will serve Galway well.
The 2014 Draft Annual Budget will be presented to councillors for consideration at a special meeting tomorrow. It provides for an expenditure of €80,480,527 which is an increase of €657,113 on the 2013 budgeted figure of €79,823,414. This increase is mainly due to the anticipated grant funding for roads and because of the privatisation of the household waste management service to Barna Recycling.
There had been a delay in the allocation of the Local Government Fund to local authorities until agreement had been made between the Department of the Environment and Irish Water regarding their allocation of €490 million from this fund, plus an additional €20 million bringing the total to €510 million. It was not until last Thursday that Galway City Council was allocated €1.626 million from the Local Government Fund for 2014, which compared to the 2013 allocation of €5.8 million seems a significant decrease. However, Mr McGrath maintained that “we are actually slightly better off” because of the direct recoupment of the net costs of the provision of water and wastewater services from Irish Water and compensation for the proposed cessation of the NPPR (Non Principal Private Residence ) income source.
Mr McGrath further explained that the privatisation of the household waste service had “stopped the loss” which with a spend of €3.8 million and income of just €1.2 million resulted in a cost of €1.6 million.
One of the key factors for shaping the 2014 Budget was ensuring that it encouraged business by not increasing the annual rate on valuation which will remain unchanged at 65.46. There will also be no increase in parking charges or in other locally generated income sources.
“It’s important to note that this is the fourth consecutive year there has been no increase in rates. We need to get people get back into productive employment as they will pay the State taxes and cease to be recipients of social welfare. By working with the business community it is better for everyone.
“Each year one per cent increase on the rate of valuation is worth €350,651 to Galway City Council. The council has 3,732 rates customers and 94 per cent of those pay less than €25,000 in rates per annum. The top 45 accounts provide €9.4 million or 27 per cent of the total rate accrual. Sixty five per cent of our customers pay less than €5,000 in rates per annum. A one per cent increase/decrease in the rate for each of these customers represents on average of €20 per annum,” said Mr McGrath who added that outstanding rates for the end of the year is €18 million and that a contributing factor for this is the amount of empty premises in the city.
It is understood that the Local Government Bill 2013 which is currently going through the houses of the Oireachtas could potentially increase rates income receivable by up to €2 million as it includes a provision to facilitate a 50 per cent rebate of rates on vacant premises.
“This very welcome measure is pro-business, if enacted, as it would encourage landlords to rent their premises, which may impact positively on rent, and it would potentially reduce the number of vacant properties in the city,” said Mr McGrath who added that the council’s coffers are in reasonably good health and that the “robust” budget will serve Galway well in 2014 and helping to deliver the corporate priorities of driving the economic development of the city, driving the inclusive and equitable socio-economic development of the city, refocusing the legal and regulatory commitments, and revitalising the organisation.