Councillors in Kerry yesterday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to reduce the annual Local Property Tax in the county by 15% and voted to retain it at the basic, previous, level.
With three councillors absent, the proposal was defeated by 24-6.
Sinn Féin had sought the reduction, an option open to local authorities.
However, Fianna Fáil Cllr Norma Foley said the special meeting on the LPT was a day where “tough decisions” were taken in the interest of the county’s growth, and where “mettle was tested”.
She had accused Sinn Féin of “playing to the gallery”, and being “all wind and all talk”.
Kerry County Council’s head of finance Angela McAllen said the council could already face a shortfall of €5.5m in 2017.
Estimates for spending were €128.6m and income was estimated at €123.1m.
Reducing the LPT levels might amount to a gain per household, but would mean a further fall of €2.1m for the council’s budget, the meeting heard.
Currently, over 60% of houses in Kerry are valued at €150,000 or less, paying €90-€225 yearly.
Property tax currently accounted for €13.8m of the Kerry council’s budget, or 11% of its total income.
Moira Murrell, chief executive, confirmed projects financed from the community support fund came from the Local Property Tax allocation.
“It’s about community support but it’s about much more,” she said, urging councillors to look not just at the basic sums but at the co-funding opportunities for village renewal and other programmes which the money offered.
“If I don’t have €2.1m, our own resources will have to be cut considerably,” she said.
She warned basic services such as roads, coastal maintenance, libraries, housing, parks and beach maintenance would all suffer.
“If I got 100 years funding — fantastic! I am looking for one year’s funding!” Ms Murrell quipped in a reference to Pa Daly, of Sinn Féin, who said the whole debate was “political chicanery”.
He had claimed big businesses such as Apple were getting tax breaks at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer.
He also criticised tax breaks given to hotels in Killarney, largely supported by councillors in Kerry.
“Debate is pointless,” he suggested. But Ms Foley accused SF of failing to take “hard decisions”.
County mayor Michael O’Shea banned any further references to Apple or other companies during the debate.
Overall, only four submissions on the LPT were received from the public.
After the SF proposal failed, a FG motion to retain the basic rate was approved, also by 24-6.
By the end of June 2016, a total of 66,200 properties in Kerry paid a property tax.
September 30 is the cut-off date for any decision to vary the LPT rate for the following year.
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