“The box of sweets is nearly gone now,” quipped Cllr John King, halfway through a meeting of Mountmellick Borris-in-Ossory area councillors to divvy up a new discretionary budget of €120,000 for 2015.
Out of a long list of items from street cleaning to festivals, the six councillors focused mainly on improving road and pedestrian safety, pooling their €20,000 portions.
They agreed to put €5,000 each, totalling €30,000, to install extra road safety measures in housing estates, such as speed ramps, which are estimated to cost from €3,000 to €5,000 each to install..
“We are waiting on a policy for ramps, should we not know before we allocate funding?” asked Cllr Brendan Phelan.
“The specifics can only be dealt with after you agree funding,” said Gerry Murphy,acting CEO of Laois County Council, who was guiding the councillors through their budgeting decisions.
They decided to put a total of €36,000 aside for footpath repairs and €24,000 towards speed sensor warning signs.
The lights, already in place at the entrances to some villages such as Emo, cost€4,000 a pair, so each councillor will be able to install a set in their chosen area.
They allocated another €18,000 towards streetlighting, though Gerry Murphy pointed out that €1 million was spent on lights in recent years.
“There are public lights where there shouldn’t be public lights,” he said.
The councillors allocated €2,000 each to community projects in their own areas, to be handed out at their own discretion over the coming year.
They were unhappy with just having €120,000 to spend, described by Cllr David Goodwin as “a measly amount of money”.
With the same amount for the Port Graiguecullen area, and €140,000 for Portlaoise to Abbeyleix, it totals €380,000 across Laois.
Mr Murphy said there was no more available.
“The funds just aren’t there. To come up with €380,000 was a huge task. The government can increase taxes to get more money, but we still have to cover our costs with less. Some local authorities have been given only €100,000,” he said.
County hall will now include the funds in their draft 2015 budget, to be put before the councillors for approval this December.
“In the event of extra funding, you will be back to give us more good news?” asked Cathaoirleach Paddy Bracken.
“I would like to think so,” said the acting county manager.