PROPOSER Fianna Fáil councillor Damien Ryan (centre) proposed the amended budget, which was passed by Mayo County Council yesterday.
Mayo County Council has passed a 4 percent hike in commercial rates.
The authority’s budget for 2020 was passed yesterday (Monday) and the most contentious element is likely to be the four percent increase in rates for businesses in the county.
The executive of Mayo County Council initially proposed a three percent rise in rates but in order to offset cuts in General Maintenance Allocations (GMAs) funding, the Fianna Fáil/Independence alliance which holds power in the council proposed a four percent hike.
The rise includes the caveat that there be no increase in rates for 2021 and no reduction in the GMAs for that year either.
Yesterday’s council meeting lasted just under an hour with no counter proposal agreed and put forward by the Fine Gael side of the council chamber.
The elected members refused a recommendation last September to increase the local property tax by 15 percent.
“There are two avenues for revenue raising. One is rates and the other is property tax,” said Fianna Fáil whip Cllr Damien Ryan in proposing the amendments to the executive’s budget.
He said the budget proposed to the chamber was ‘made in a spirit of harmony and cohesion and a spirit of confidence in how this country is being run’ and ‘in order to continue with the smooth running and prudent workings of this council’.
The amendments included scrapping the executive’s plans to halve the GMA budget. Cllr Ryan proposed the GMA remain at 2019 levels – €1,050,000.
GMAs are funds which councillors can give, at their discretion, to local groups and organistions.
He said increasing the rates to four percent from the proposed three percent will generate an additional €344,000 of income.
“In proposing the GMA I’m insisting that be the figure for next year as well and if there is latitude or buoyancy that that would be increased pro rata for 2021,” said Cllr Ryan.
Cllr Ryan proposed increases in income including the following: an increase of €75,000 in rents income; an increase of €75,000 in income from the non principal primary residence tax and an increase of €125,000 in the property entry levy income.
He also proposed reductions in expenditure, including the following: a reduction of €130,000 in loan charges and public lighting; EPA charges to be reduced by €99,000; and a reduction of €210,000 in pensions and gratuities.
Rate relief granted under the small business support scheme would be increased, resulting in an additional cost of €25,000.
His amended budget was seconded by Cllr Michael Kilcoyne (Ind).
There was then a lengthy debate over whether the proposed amendments should be printed out for the Fine Gael councillors to view before they decided if they wanted to table a counter proposal. Cathaoirleach, Cllr Brendan Mulroy, said he would only agree to an adjournment for this if a counter proposal was tabled and that also be printed out.
Fine Gael did not table a counter proposal and the budget was passed without a vote. The Mayo News understands not all councillors in the FF/Ind alliance were in favour of the amended budget.
Speaking earlier in the meeting when a 3 percent rates hike was on the table, Fine Gael’s Cllr Peter Flynn questioned rising rates.
“We’re talking about a rates increase of 3 percent. That means we are talking about a rates increase in the last five years of 22 percent for most businesses in this county. We like to talk about Mayo being open for business but in my view that is completely anti-business and unsustainable.
“If you look at our rates figures in 2015, we billed out €28.5 million in rates. In 2020, if we pass the rate being proposed today (3 percent), the rates figure will be €35.4 million. An increase of 37 percent in the space of five years.
Cllr Flynn was also critical of how the council was spending its money.”
“We are not spending money on the primary functions and we will continue to pass another budget the way it is before us, I think it will be another sad day. I’d like to think we can think about things differently,” he said.
As a result of the budget, the annual rate of valuation for 2020 is €78.42. The vacancy relief rate is 90 percent.
Commercial rates are calculated by multiplying the annual rate of valuation, as passed by the local authority, by the rateable valuation of a business property. The rateable valuation is determined by the Commissioner of Valuation.