€107m council budget passed for job projects
WEXFORD COUNTY COUNCIL approved an overall budget of €107m for next year – up €6m from 2017, with a view to stimulating the job market locally.
The budget sees increased funding for a number of key activities including housing and homelessness, road maintenance, economic and community development projects, library and arts services. The increased spending is to be funded primarily from increased grants/ subsidies, increased Local Property Tax, and a 3 per cent increase in commercial rates.
The 2018 Budget sees the completion of the Rates Harmonisation Process, which was introduced following the abolition of town councils in 2014.
The Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) in the towns of New Ross and Enniscorthy has been raised to match the rate applying in the remainder of the county, creating a single Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) across the entire county. A Special Rates Incentive Scheme has been introduced in both former town rating areas, to acknowledge and assist ratepayers in these areas with the impact of the harmonisation movement.
The council also reduced the rates relief available in respect of vacant commercial properties from the current rate of 100 per cent to 90 per cent.
In presenting the 2018 Draft Budget, which he described as ambitious and development-focussed, Chief Executive Tom Enright outlined the council’s plans to grow the county’s economy and create additional job opportunities over the next five years.
Mr Enright emphasised the ring-fencing of €2.2m, financed by increases in Local Property Tax and rates, for the delivery of economic, social and community development within the county and pointed to further opportunities for Wexford as major infrastructure projects, including the New Ross and Enniscorthy bypasses, natural gas network and fibre broadband improvements to come on stream.
During the four-hour debate, Head of Finance Annette O’Neill, together with senior council officials, responded to queries from the members on a range of issues, including Early Payment Discount for commercial rates, funding of county roads and public lighting, housing maintenance, funding of local festivals and community facilities, unfinished housing estates, litter management, library and arts services, and emergency services.
The 2018 Budget also provides for increased funding of €30,000 for each of the county’s four municipal districts as a response to increased demands for support from the respective communities of these areas. The members were also advised that some additional income was anticipated as the pace and extent of planning activity in County Wexford continues to improve.
It was agreed at the Budget 2018 meeting that the local authority will, over the coming weeks, publish details of the its extensive range of economic development and community projects which are to be funded and delivered over the next number of years throughout the county.
Speaking after the meeting, Cathaoirleach John Hegarty paid tribute to his fellow councillors for their support of the various provisions set out 100page comprehensive budget document. ‘This is an ambitious budget, designed to deliver an ambitious programme of services,’ Councillor Hegarty said. ‘The decisions taken today by the council were not easy to make, but they are absolutely necessary if we are take advantage of the many exciting opportunities that are now emerging; opportunities that when taken will allow our economy to further grow and prosper into the future, ensuring that County Wexford continues to be a great place to live, work and visit.’
Tom Enright, chief executive: five-year plan for growth.