The newly adopted Mayo County Council commercial rate of €68.76 is here to stay for the next few years at least. At this week’s reconvened budget meeting of the council, the members voted in favour of maintaining the rate at what it was last year. With the abolishment of the three town councils in the county earlier this year, the county council is now the only rating authority in the county. However, despite the abolishment of the town councils, rate payers in both Westport and Ballina will continue to pay a lower rate than the rest of the county for at least next year as part of an equalisation process. The rate in Castlebar was already the same as the county council one, while Westport had the lowest commercial rate of €63.23, and Ballina’s rate was €64.52.
Under the equalisation process, the council have up to 10 years to bring all the rates in line with each other, so there is one single rate for the county.
Head of finance for the council, Peter Duggan, told the meeting that the council proposes to have the rates brought in line with each other within three years. Under the legislation brought in to cover the equalisation of the rates, there can be no change in the rate that businesses in the towns where the town councils were abolished will pay in 2015 from the 2014 rate, so it will be 2016 before they see any increase in the rate in Ballina and Westport.
Independent councillors from Ballina and Westport called for changes to be made to the proposed plan. Ballina based Cllr Gerry Ginty said that there should be a five year period before the rates are equalised to give business owners a chance to get ready for it. Westport based Cllr Christy Hyland called for the county council rate to be lowered to meet the lower rates that are being paid in Westport and Ballina currently.
The chief executive of Mayo County Council, Peter Hynes, said that the council preferred to have a shorter period for the equalisation process, which would be for the greater good of the county. He pointed out that the council didn’t have a rate increase for almost 10 years now and there could be a need in the future for one, but they can’t make any change in the rate until all the rates have been equalised.