By Sean O’Riordan
There will be no increase in the local property tax (LPT) next year for people living in Co Cork, despite calls for the county council to dip into its reserves to provide a cut in the tax for hard-pressed homeowners.
During a debate on the LPT in County Hall yesterday, Fianna Fáil deputy council leader Frank O’Flynn said any cut in the tax would leave the local authority with less money to provide services.
“We’re elected by the people to provide services and we can only do this if we have the money for them. Since the LPT came in, it has given us opportunities to provide services and we need to retain them. I propose there will be no increase and leave it the way it is,” said Mr O’Flynn.
Under the current LPT, householders whose properties are worth up to €100,000 pay €90 a year. LPT on a house valued from €250,000 to €300,000 is €495, and it is graded upwards in value bands to homes worth €950,000 to €1m, where the annual payment is €1,755.
Fine Gael council leader Kevin Murphy agreed with Mr O’Flynn. “The LPT is a very important fund. Local communities are benefitting from it,” he said.
The council’s deputy chief executive, Declan Daly, said they were “entering a period of some uncertainty” with Cork City Council’s boundary extension.
He pointed out that under national pay agreements, the local authority would have to find €4.8m extra in its 2019 budget for increased wages and pension payments.
“It’s still a challenging (financial) environment for us. We’re likely to be proposing a deficit in the forthcoming council budget,” said Mr Daly.
At this point, Kevin Conway, spokesman for the Independents on the council, proposed a short recess be taken so he and his colleagues could discuss a document provided by officials detailing the impact certain percentage reductions would have on the income the council would get from the LPT.
However, Sinn Féin councillor Melissa Mullane then formally proposed a vote on a 15% reduction of the LPT.
“It is not based on the ability to pay or on a person’s income. It is simply (a tax) for having a roof over your head,” said Ms Mullane.
Her party leader on the council, Des O’Grady, said the county council had over €13m in reserves and could use some of that money to defray such a reduction in the LPT.
“I’d urge the council to use that instead of penalising householders,” said Mr O’Grady.
Following a lengthy debate, the Sinn Féin proposal to reduce the LPT by 15% was defeated.
A vote was then taken to retain it at the current rate, which was won by 36 votes in favour and just four against.
By Anne Lucey
Councillors in Kerry have voted by the narrowest of margins to return the local property tax (LPT) to base and have refused to back management’s call to retain a 5% increase the council had voted in for 2018.
The increase was proposed by Fine Gael.
Tied at 15 councillors for and 15 against, Mayor of Kerry, Cllr Norma Foley (FF) used her casting vote to defeat it.
Sinn Féin and eight of the ten Fianna Fáil councillors voted against, while Labour and Fine Gael supported the vote.
Independents split on the issue and three councillors were missing.
The increase would mean an extra €700,000 on the €13.8m retained in the county from the LPT, manager Moira Murrell said.
It would go towards projects as well as towards reducing a €3.4m shortfall in next year’s budget.
Around a third of the homeowners in Kerry are in the lowest band and would pay €94.50 — €4.50 extra on the basic rate; a further third would pay €236.25, an extra €11.25.
However, amid strong criticism that basic services such as roads in East Kerry, hedge-cutting in the south and parking and other projects in Killarney were not progressing, the increase was rejected.
Homeowners were “a soft target” and should not have to bear yet another increase in taxes and living costs, councillors also said.
Cllr John Joe Culloty (FF) said it was “fine” for management and those proposing the increase to say the increase is only so many cents a week but, at the end of the day, it was on top of everything else being paid.
“I won’t be supporting it. I can’t see anything coming back from it.
“I think people are punished enough,” the Killarney councillor said.
Tralee councillor Pa Daly (SF) praised the council’s investment and work in Tralee improvements and the fact the council was the primary driver of festivals, but an increase in LPT was going after the “soft target”.
Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae, voting against the increase, said it would hit rural dwellers. He said home heating oil had gone up by 30%; road diesel by 27%, and tax on the use of rural jeeps for farmers now would be well over €1,000.
“Everything else is going up.
“If you are living in Glencar, it is very hard to pinpoint what you are getting in return,” Cllr Healy-Rae said.