Council approves €143m budget package for 2019

Simon Brouder

Kerry County Council has signed off on a €143 million budget package for next year. The local authority's 2019 spending plan was formally approved - by a margin of 20 councillors to five - at the council's annual budget meeting which took place at county buildings on Monday.

Councillors were told that Budget 2019 had been difficult to balance and that a number of projects and the hiring of additional staff cannot take place in 2019 due to financial shortfalls.

This is primarily being blamed by management sources on councillors' decision to cut the local property Tax (LPT) rate last September.

Last year the LPT brought €14.4 million into the council's coffers and accounted for about 10 per cent of the authority's 2018 budget. However, in September councillors voted against a management proposal to maintain a five per cent variation of the basic Government set LPT rate.

Under legislation, councils are free to vary the local rate of the tax by anything up to 15 per cent. In 2017 Kerry County Council hiked the rate by five per cent, a move which attracted considerable anger from property owners across the county.

Last September councillors voted against a recommendation that they maintain the increased rate. As a result the LTP rate will return to the national base rate next year, a move which forced council management to find some €14 million in savings while preparing next year's budget.

In spite of the funding shortfall the council's 2019 budget will see a €6 million increase in spending compared with 2018. The budget includes €36 million for roads, €29 million for housing and €18 million for environmental  projects. Staff payroll is the biggest expenditure item and it will cost the council €67 million.