The shortfall in payments has been met with a punishing €66,000 cut to Laois County Council’s grant from the government, bringing the total cuts this year to €475,000. If just 600 of those householders had paid, the final slash would have been avoided.
The council received 60 per cent of payments from 16,417 homeowners, just in time to avoid a bigger cut of €131,000. They remain hopeful that if they can hit the required target of 65 per cent by the end of the year, that final cut of €66,000 will be reversed.
Gerry Murphy, the Director of Services for Finance, has pleaded for the public to pay up.
“I am appealing for at least 600 to pay, at least then we can make a case. The government in a letter tell me the final payment will be revisited and reviewed including the progress on recouping the charge,” he said.
He confirmed that no more reminder letters will be sent.
“It wouldn’t be in our interest to send out further letters, until we are satisfied that the database is more up to date,” he said.
He was updating councillors at yesterdays monthly meeting, to a mixed reception.
Cllr Brendan Phelan asked how they could agree on next year’s budget.
“How can we expect to propose the budget when we are doing it in the dark? What if only 30 per cent pay the property tax, that may be a charge of €1,000 are we going to base our services on how much we can collect? The local government grant comes from income tax. People that pay their taxes expect their roads in repair, it’s not fair that we should be penalised,” he said.
The €100 nominal charge, a precursor to next year’s property tax, was due by March 31. With late penalties accruing, it now stands at €127.
Controversy has dogged the charge, with many refusing to pay. Laois County Council along with other local authorities had to apologise recently for sending warning letters to deceased or paid up householders, because of an incomplete database.
Last September, county manager Peter Carey warned of dire consequences if their budget was cut further.
“We simply will not be able to deliver services. There are a number of budgets under pressure. Roads, lighting, water, parking. We will just have to set limits, we won’t be able to do it all, “ he said.