Sligo News File Online
It’s understood that a government directive said to have instructed Sligo County Council to decrease the commercial rates on a number of major utility operations will be on the agenda at a meeting of the authority on Monday.
The revised valuation of structures, understood to include those of Vodafone, BT, Meteor and Eircom, comes in the wake of recently amended legislation first introduced by the Fianna Fail-led government in 2001.
Under the measures, it’s believed the council must now slash the rates bill of the various companies by upwards of €300,00, leaving the authority having to make up for the loss in income by, it looks, “rebalancing” upwards the rates load on smaller firms throughout the county.
Sinn Fein Chairman of the Sligo Municipal District, Cllr. Thomas Healy, who called public attention to the change in the commercial rate valuation system, said he was profoundly concerned about the impact implementation of the new Valuation Office adjustment would have on those hit with higher rates on premises.
With many smaller firms struggling to survive as it is, he said that imposing a greater rates burden on them would have serious implications for their future viability and the jobs they offer.
Monday’s meeting will look at how the Council is to cope with budget demands for the coming year. Long-term debts of the authority are in excess of €100 million, much of it a carry-over from earlier councils. Cumulative deficit is €26 million. Despite this, a financial plan reportedly overseen by the Government stipulates that, on top of huge cuts in staffing levels and local services, councillors must make provision for a massive budget surplus of €2.3 million. Should they refuse or fail to adopt the budget within a defined timeframe, the Minister for the Environment can remove the elected members, and replace them with a Government-appointed commissioner.
There are fears that the seriousness of the council’s finances could see householders hit with a future – post coming general election – whopping increase in the existing property tax on their homes. In the last two years, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael members of the council have repeatedly blocked proposals to scale down the tax, leaving Sligo now among the highest property tax hammered counties in the country.