At last Monday’s meeting of Mayo County Council the elected members of the council voted to lower the local property tax by three per cent. The lowering of the rate will in 2015 save homeowners between €2.70 and €6.75 in total over the year, but will leave a hole in the council’s overall budget of €321,000 which must be met by the council’s own resources.
Despite warnings by the head of finance for Mayo County Council, Peter Duggan, in a presentation that he gave to the members and Peter Hynes, the chief executive of the council, that there was no scope in the council’s budget for a reduction in the figures, the councillors went ahead and voted for the reduction.
Mr Duggan told the members that the council was facing a shortfall in its budget of €6.4 million already for next year and any cut in the local property tax would have to be added to that shortfall.
The three per cent reduction was proposed by Fianna Fáil councillor Al McDonnell, while Independent councillor Frank Durcan went further and proposed that the full 15 per cent reduction that was available to the councillors be implemented next year. The issue of whether it be a three per cent cut or a 15 per cent cut was put to a vote, with 25 of the members voting for the three per cent cut and five voting for the maximum cut available. The five councillors who voted for the full cut were Independent councillors, Cllr Frank Durcan and Cllr Seamus Weir, alongside the three Sinn Féin councillors Cllr Gerry Murray, Cllr Therese Ruane, and Cllr Rose Conway Walsh.
While the Fine Gael members voted for the cut, the Fine Gael whip in the chamber, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly, questioned whether instead of cutting the council budget to facilitate a cut in property taxes, the council could ringfence the €321,000 in question to fund hedge-cutting.
In response to the question, the chief executive Peter Hynes indicated that it was possible. But the idea did not get support from the other councillors.
During his presentation to the members on the potential variation to the local property tax, Mr Duggan informed the members that in accordance with regulations, an advertisement was published in three local newspapers asking for public submissions on the issue and only two submissions were made to the council on foot of the advertisement, one from a private individual and the other from the Irish Farmers Association. He also outlined the breakdown of the valuations that had been placed on homes in the county by homeowners..
Some 23,400 (41 per cent ) of the homes in Mayo have been valued at less than €100,000 for the tax, while 22,800 (40 per cent ) have been valued at being between €100,000 and €150,000, 7,980 (14 per cent ) have been valued at between €150,000 and €200,000, and 2,850 (five per cent ) have been valued at above €250,000. Going on the valuations, 41 per cent of homes in Mayo will be charged €90 next year for the local property tax and 40 per cent of the homes will be charged €225 next year.