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Council facing decision on local property tax in September

26th June 2019

OFFALY'S councillors will meet in private in September to discuss the local property tax (LPT).

Though LPT tax rates are fixed by the Government, they can be varied up or down by as much as 15 per cent by County Councils.

Last year Offaly County Council rejected a Fine Gael proposal for a 10 per cent increase in the tax, instead backing a Fianna Fail motion to freeze it at the previous year's levels.

Council management had called for an increase, saying that a 15 per cent hike would bring in over €790,000 and that would leverage millions of euros worth of State grants.

Even a five per cent rise in local property tax would result in over €246,000 flowing into the council's coffers in a single year, councillors were told.

Speaking at the June meeting of Offaly County Council last week, Declan Conlon, the local authority's head of finance, said the 2020 budgetary process begins on August 1 when submissons will be sought from the public on the LPT review.

That consultation process ends on August 30 and on September 9 the council will meet “in committee” to discuss it.

The councillors will then make a decision on the tax at their next monthly meeting on September 16.

Mr Conlon also told councillors that it had been agreed following a meeting of the council's corporate policy group that an “in committee” briefing on the 2020 budget will also take place on July 15 “to keep you fully au fait on budgetary matters, revenue capital etc”.

A draft of the 2020 budget will be brought before councillors on November 11 in advance of being adopted on November 18.

Mr Conlon said it was “not good” that the LPT had to be adopted before the annual budget and the council had lobbied the Government on the matter, suggesting that the two decisions should be made at the same time.

The LPT has replaced the local government fund and is now the council's most important source of income.

“Our only way of raising additional money is through this process and through commercial rates in which there is very little buoyancy at the moment,” said Mr Conlon.

The council also ploughs funding from its LPT allocation into Government grant-aided projects all over the county.

Town and village renewal schemes and outdoor recreation projects require between 20 and 25 per cent funding from the council.

Anna Marie Delaney, the council's chief executive, said currently the council did not have enough funding from its own resources to trigger Government aid for the number of projects it had proposed.

“It's a matter for the members if you want to tell us to curtail some of the projects that we're doing and not provide matched funding for them,” said Ms Delaney.




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