Overall budget for 2022 is €140 million
There's good news for the county’s hard-pressed business community as there will be no increase in the commercial rates in the coming year.
Louth County Council’s Chief Executive Joan Martin outlined the challenges facing the local authority due to the on-going pandemic. This had resulted in increased costs such as having to cater for remote working at the same time that one of their main sources of revenue – pay-parking – was down.
The income from commercial rates was also impacted and while most businesses were now open, there was no Government support to make up the difference as had been in the earlier stages of the pandemic.
The council had been working very hard in the last five or six years to improve the level of rates collection but as they hadn’t been collecting them during the pandemic, she hoped that they wouldn’t end up back at ‘square one’.
The would be no increase in the commercial rates this year, and although it had been planned to re-align the rates throughout the county, this would not be done in the coming year.
The overall budget is for an expenditure of €140.3million – an increase of €9.8million.
While the budget didn’t didn’t leave any room for manoeuvre, as they were still operating off the roughly the same income as in previous years, she felt that they had a very strong capital programme,
“We are still delivering a vry strong programme for the people of the county. I feel it’s the best budget we can give with the money available to us.”
She had attempted to put extra money into new areas such as climate change actions as well as to areas like housing maintenance, library books, community grants and Tidy Towns.
“All of those areas like the arts and libraries have taken on an increased importance during the pandemic – they are more important than we ever dreamed they were,” she said, adding that she would be reluctant to make cuts in those areas.
She also pointed to the importance of tourism, with developments in Carlingford, the Louth Seafood Trail and plans for Drogheda.
While they had a lot of catching up to do, they had seen how people had suddenly discovered the gems on their doorstep and in other parts of the country, including Co Louth, during the pandemic.
"There is lots of good stuff happening despite how constrained we are financially.”
The meeting also heard from Head of Finance, Bernie Woods, that thre had been a big increase in housing and building, mainly to do with the provision of payments to leasing bodies for housing as well as long-term leases to landlords.
The cost of landfill was also up due to EPA regulations while an extra allocation as being made for climate change actions.
There was increase across all sections due to pay roll increases, she said, with the costs of HR, training and I.T costs going, with some of that related to remote working and security.
Councillors rejected an amendment by Cllr Marianne Butler that the €225,000 discretionary fund be distributed on a population basis, rather than equally (€75,000 each) between the three districts of Dundalk, Ardee and Drogheda.
They then voted to adopt the budget as presented by twenty votes in favour, with six councillors voting against, and two absent.