While Cork City Council bosses are seeking a rise in rates when they discuss their budget tomorrow night, Mr Lucey said his local authority was not, even though it had taken a hit because some major utility companies had their rates significantly reduced by the Central Valuations Office.
Mr Lucey said he would not increase rates even though the council was faced with increased costs through payroll and pensions within its €306.8m budget for 2017. Around 42% of the budget is made up of income from rates.
The chief executive said he would also be utilising local property tax (LPT) for the good of communities and that additional money was being set aside for town and village renewal schemes.
To balance the books, Mr Lucey said the council was taking €1.8m out of its reserves, which was double the amount it dipped into this year. The council currently has €12m in reserves.
Sinn Féin made a series of counter-proposals, including taking a further €1.2m from council reserves to enhance some services. It proposed 13 adjustments and insisted the council scrap plans to increase rents for people living in houses formerly owned by town councils.
Traditionally rents in these older properties were less than for other local authority housing in the county. The council proposed to raise them, bringing a further €750,000 into its coffers next year.
Mr Lucey said rents should be increased to help the council with its ongoing project to make all its housing energy-efficient.
Lorraine Lynch, the council’s head of finance, said €50m of the budget will go on housing services.
Cllr Des O’Grady, the Sinn Féin leader on the council, said it had eight amendments alone to the housing budget, which included extra money being allocated for disability grants and more being ploughed into homeless services.
Cllr O’Grady said an additional €1.2m should be taken from council reserves and overseas trips for councillors should be scrapped to prevent a rise in rents for tenants and to employ extra social workers in an effort to address the housing crisis.
Cllr Noel Collins (Ind) said he supported SF’s proposals, especially with regard to employing more social workers.
Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG) said if Sinn Féin had voted to increase the LPT the council would have money to address their concerns: “They can’t have it two ways.”
Mr Lucey claimed the council would be “undermined” if the Sinn Féin proposals were adopted and it wouldn’t be prudent to take even more out of reserves to balance the books.
Cllr June Murphy (Ind), a former member of SF, said it was disingenuous of that party to send out its proposals just 65 minutes before the budget meeting started.
“You forget I know how you work. This is all just game-playing with you, I’m sick of it,” Cllr Murphy said.
Cllr O’Grady said his party couldn’t put the proposals to other councillors beforehand as they didn’t get some answers they wanted from council officers until 4pm last Friday.
The budget was passed by 40 votes to 8.