Rates to stay unchanged for Cavan businesses in 2021
Rates for Cavan's businesses will remain unchanged for 2021, it was revealed at this morning's the local authority's Budget meeting.
An increase of 15% in the Local Property Tax (LPT), approved by the council in September, freed the council's hand to present a balanced budget in which commercial rates remained static. County executive Tommy Ryan, stressed the importance of the LPT increase: “This will generate an additional income of €680,996 for Cavan County Council, which has enabled me to present a balanced budget without making significant cuts in expenditure.”
He presented the bvudget with the proviso, that it was compiled on the “assumption/expectation that any losses occurring due to the Coronavirus pandemic in 2021 will receive the same level of support from government nationally as they did in 2020.” He cautioned, if that support didn't materialise in 2021, then “expenditure will have to be curtailed and many of the programmes may have to be suspended.
Numerous councillors of all political hues welcomed the unchanged rates, saying that businesses could not afford to meet any increase given the 2020 they had endured. Cllr Shane P O'Reilly pointedly noted that had the budget included a proposal to increase rates it would have been roundly rejected by the elected members.
It may be a confrontation that is faced in the future as Mr Ryan's report said that all Cavan ratepayers received a discount of 6% which equated to €866k in lost income for the council. “This reduction continues and will increase annually unless there is an increase in the annual rate in valuation,” he advised.
“It is likely that there will be a greater vacancy rate in commercial property than is currently provided for and a difficulty in collecting rates. If the Coronavirus pandemic continues well into 2021 there will be further losses of income from rates and other resources. It has therefore been necessary to increase provision for uncollectable rates.”
Mr Ryan used the meeting to restate key concerns in income generation for the local authority, previously outlined in September, namely “the loss in Non-Principal Private Residence income, the landfill reaching capacity, uncollectable rates, appeals on revaluations, the covid pandemic and Brexit”.
The revaluation of County Cavan in 2019 saw 63% of ratepaters get a reduced bill, which hit council income. Also, a number of the 37% who had their rates increased had the right to appeal. Therefore the council had set aside €1.333m in the 2020 budget and again in 2021, to cover refunds of rates if they are reduced on appeal.
In the face of such obstacles, there was a note of resilience sustained in Mr Ryan's report: “Cavan County Council is an ambitious council and strives to maintain and improve services while also maximising national and regional grants to improve the local, economic, cultural and community assets.”
He outlined a dozen national funding schemes available to apply for assistance however he noted that to avail of the support it required “significant financial and human resources”, including local co-financing of up to 25%. There were also a number of other costs the burden of which would fall upon the council, however he continued: “Even with all these challenges it is imperative that Cavan avails of funding opoprtunities while they are available.”
The pandemic overshadows everything; the discussion in the council – hosted in the spacious function room Hotel Kilmore to ensure social distancing – was no different. Mr Ryan explained that “but for the support from national government Cavan County Council would be facing into 2021 with a significant deficit.”
“The rates waiver funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, initially for six monmths and extended to nine months has given a level of certainty of income for the current year and also provides much needed relief to commercial ratepayers in the county,” he said.
He noted a comfort letter from ministers O'Brien and Burke which committed to reallocate any funding not drawn down under the rates waiver scheme to support local authorities for losses incurred in other income, as well as costs incurred due to the pandemic. He welcomed the assurance and added that it “should result in a good financial outturn for the council at the end of 2020”.
Clifford Kelly proposed they approve the draft budget, councillor Madeleine Argue seconded the motion.