Despite stark warnings from officials of Mayo County Council advising an increase to the Local Property Tax in Mayo, no proposal was put forward by any of the 30 councillors at the September meeting of Mayo County Council on Monday last to either raise or lower the tax.
Addressing the item, officials warned councillors that if the LPT was not increased, up to 50 planned projects would possibly not go ahead - as the council needed more money for their contributions towards the costs of the projects, to match funding put forward by central government.
Director of Finance for Mayo County Council, Peter Duggan, outlined the situation to the members, informing them that the council needed an additional €1,580,000 for match funding for projects, which broke down as follows: Under the town and village enhancement scheme - (€450,000 ); Clár programmes - (€100,000 ); Urban Regeneration and Development Fund - (€500,000 ); Rural Regeneration Development Fund - (€500,000 ); Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Measures - (€200,000 ); Failte Ireland grants - (€100,000 ). Leader grants - (€200,000 ) and piers, harbours and island funding - (€250,000 ).
The total cost of the council's match funding for these projects is €2,300,000, with the council budget currently providing only €720,000 for this funding. Duggan was looking for the councillors to increase the LPT by 15 per cent, which would generate an additional income of €1,560,000 for the local authority.
Currently there are 59,100 homes in Mayo registered for the LPT with 25,886 (43.8 per cent ) valued at under €100,000 and 22,813 (38.6 per cent ) of them valued at between €100,001 and €150,000. According to Duggan, a 15 per cent increase in the LPT would see houses valued at under €100,000 a year see their LPT increase by €13.50 in the year and the homes valued between €100,001 and €150,00 increase by €33.75 per year.
He also informed the meeting that the council had advertised, seeking submissions from the public in relation to varying the property tax, as is required under law, and they did not receive a single submission from the public on the matter.
The director of finance also told the meeting that on top of the programmes that needed match funding, as outlined – the council also faced another additional expenditure of €1,800,000 next year relating primarily to increases in payroll costs, energy costs and land charges to fund a county wide public lighting upgrade.
Outlining the scale of some of the projects the council would not be able to carry out without the match funding needed, Duggan told the meeting: “Regarding the town and village enhancement scheme - I estimate we need €450,000; the current year's allocation, we have €2.1 million of projects that consist of 16 different projects with an average of €100,000 per project in places like Moygownagh, Parke, Killala, Killawalla, Roundford, Cong, Claremorris, The Neale - right around the county; there is a requirement there for those projects, for us to put forward €450,000.
“Similarly for Clár, the projects here are smaller in size - our provisional allocations are in the region of €864,000 worth of projects over the next year and we have to put about €150,000 of our own money with that; again there are 18 projects on that list dotted right around the county. They are projects that are worth doing in our towns and villages.
“Similarly for the recreation facilities like pools, playgrounds and things like that - there are 16 different projects at a total cost of €1.7 million and average cost per project of €75,000 to €100,000; our requirement here is €217,000 - the list goes on.”
When it came to debating the proposal the majority of speakers came from the Independents in the chamber, with Johnno O’Malley saying that he would not support the raising of the LPT, as it was a promise that he had made during his election campaign.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said: "About six or nine months ago the government said they wouldn't review the property tax, they would leave it as is; if they don't want to review it who am I to tell them to change it - they are all the ones with the books and figures. In four or five years they haven't increased the block grant - why do we have to change it? If everything else was alright the people would be Ok to pay their way, but they have over and over again already. I'm not going to add to their burden.”
Cllr Richard Finn suggested that the council write to the relevant Minister and seek a meeting in relation to increasing the block grant the authority get from central government each year. This was supported by Cllr Kilcoyne.
Councillors have until the end of the month to make a decision on the issue.