Members of Mayo County Council yesterday (Monday) agreed to a proposal to increase the commercial rate by 7.5 percent. However, a ‘business support scheme’ will mean that 81 percent of ratepayers will not pay an increase.
The decision to strike a rate and adopt the 2018 Council Budget followed hours of talks and negotiations during the afternoon between the majority Fianna Fáil and Independent group and members of the Council Executive.
The budget meeting, which began at 3pm, was adjourned a number of times to allow the group to deliver an amended budget that the Executive could agree to. Shortly after 8pm, a proposal was put to the Council chamber.
Cllr Damien Ryan of Fianna Fáil agreed to a commercial rate increase of 7.5 percent, but stressed that the reality was that only 19 percent of ratepayers would see an overall increase.
“The decisions are made based on balanced consideration of every aspect of this budget. The real fear on this side of the house was it [the 7.5 percent rate increase] would be a burden that would be extremely hard for small businesses of this county to bear. We have taken into consideration that 81 percent of the businesses in Mayo pay less than €5,000 in rates to this local authority. We have a set of proposals which would pretty much take that group out of the increases we are proposing,” he said.
Cllr Ryan said they were proposing a business support scheme that would see ratepayers with a rates threshold of €5,157 given a 7.5 percent support grant to offset the rate increase. The next threshold of €6,576 will get a 5 percent support grant while those with a threshold capped at €8,595 will get a 2.5 percent support grant. One of the main stumbling blocks to a budget adoption was the proposed decrease in the general municipal allocation from €2.5 million to €1.5 million. Cllr Ryan said they proposed to increase the proposed fund of €1.5 million by an additional €600,000.
Cllr Ryan proposed a number of amendments in order to balance the budget, which included an increase of an additional €400,000 in income from car-parking charges. While not going into specifics of where the additional funding will come from, Cllr Ryan said there had to be a ‘rethink and relook at parking in every municipal district’.
Other areas where additional income will be found included an increase in the vacant-site levy and an additional €50,000 from the Non Principal Private Residence fund.
The proposals were seconded by Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne but opposed by Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly, who said small businesses and the retail sector faced a lot of uncertainty.
In a counter proposal, he proposed no increase in rates along with a number of other amendments, but this was not accepted by the Council Executive, who claimed it was unworkable.
Fine Gael stood by the proposal, but following a vote, they were defeated by 16 votes to eleven, and Cllr Ryan’s proposal was passed.