Concerns for services in rural areas of Sligo were voiced by councillors at Monday’s special meeting to decide on the Local Property Tax.
Elected members were given an outline on the possible repercussions for services that a vote to decrease property tax could have by head of finance Marie Whelan. As projected in the current financial plan (still to be confirmed by the Department of the Environment), should the property tax remain at its current level, Sligo should get close to €9 million in revenue.
This comes from both the tax itself and also the Equalisation Fund which brings revenue in from other counties in Ireland to spread the revenue gained through property tax.
There was a warning given to councillors from Marie Whelan that a reduction in property tax could compromise services such as libraries which are provided by the council.
Independent Cllr Margaret Gormley asked for clarification on whether the vote for the property tax to remain the same would result in the services at Tubbercurry Tax Office, Ballymote Library and Tubbercurry Library all being retained.
“I don’t want to see theses services going. A year ago I abstained [from a vote on property tax] to see what services would improve and if anything services got worse,” she said.
Dorothy Clarke, Director of Services would not give a commitment on the services remaining in place but did say that she and the council were doing all they can to keep them going.
“We want to retain the services and maintain them in rural areas. We have come up with different options at least and if we get approval [for the financial plan] it will give us some form of stability over the next number of years and that is as much as I can say,” she said.
Margaret Gormley did ultimately vote for the the property tax to remain the same, however independent Michael Clarke chose to abstain due to the lack of clarity over services and the hard economic times in his area of Dromore West.
“It is a difficult situation in my area with pubs and shops closing because they are unable to pay rates. I would like to be in a position to support the motion [to reduce the tax] but I do not want to see cuts to older people. I want to sit on the bench,” he said. Cllr Margaret Casserly admitted that she and her elected colleagues were “stuck between a rock and hard place.”