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Council meets to discuss 2015 budget

Chamber

BY C.J.MCGINLEY

COUNCILLORS are set to start discussing their annual budget estimates for 2015 at 11am.

The 37 members will be briefed this morning by senior council officials on a revenue budget of 133million euro, down 17 million euro down on last year.

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This is the first budget of the “new council” elected in May; where Fianna Fail are the largest party, followed by Sinn Fein, there are ten independent councillors. They met behind closed doors yesterday in an effort to allay concerns of members on a number of issues.

Last year after 42 hours of talks and 26 adjournments Donegal County Council was saved from the brink of collapse. It stood within three hours of being dissolved.

Mayor John Campbell says he cannot see a repeat of that today and there are hopes a deal can be brokered between the parties.

As part of today’s budget proposals the County Manager, Mr Seamus Neely is proposing that small businesses’ in Donegal get get a five per cent reduction in their rates next year.

The Chief Executive of Donegal County Council, Mr Seamus Neely, is recommending the new plan to the 37 members of the local authority ahead of their annual budget meeting on Tuesday at 10am in Lifford.

Mr Neely is proposing the establishment of a ‘small business grant scheme’ which will enable the majority of small businesses’ to access an effective five per cent reduction on their rate bill for 2015.

The move is part of an effort by the council to assist small businesses’ in what Mr Neely has described as a ‘challenging business environment’. There are 5,343 rate payers in the county and the total amount due to be collected is expected to be over €29million.

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No rate payer will pay any more in 2015 than they did this year due to the adoption of a ‘harmonised rate’ for the county to reflect the amalgamation of former county and town council areas.

However, Mr Neely has stressed the ‘pace of harmonisation’ will be considered by members at each annual budget, commencing next year- a clear hint rates may rise in the years ahead in some parts of the county.
The new grant waiver is part of a €131.2million draft reveneue budget for next year due to be discussed by elected representatives.

This is a reduction of almost €17.7million from 2014 budget, largely due to a reduction of €10.2million in the Irish Water Budget, savings of €1.5million in purchasing power for goods and services and a controverial proposal to cut the specific roads grant by €1.4million.

The executive is also deferring an additional €981,000 in principal payments on certain Non-Mortgage loans and reducing by €1.1million ‘the amnount from non recurring inter-authority activity’.
The CEO has confirmed the reduction in the water budget of €10million is as a result of Irish Water’s “increasing purchasing and procurement of goods and services through their own platforms and to their now direct responsibility for Design, Build &Operate (DBO) contracts.

The overall roads-transport- safety budget is to face a cut of €4million from last year. Further cuts in spending are also planned in Recreation (almost €1million) which will irk many members.

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