Donegal County Council on Tuesday evening adopted a 131.2 million euro draft revenue budget unchanged from the package the county executive had presented to councillors 10 hours earlier.
Councillors also agreed to send cross-party delegations to Dublin to seek increased funding for a number of proposals raised by council groupings in meetings during the day, and raised those funding issues with senior council staff as well.
At about 8.15pm, after a day of seven adjournments to facilitate a series of closed-door meetings between and among groupings on the council, Fianna Fáil Cllr. Ciaran Brogan proposed the draft council budget for 2015 be adopted without change. Fine Gael Cllr. John Ryan seconded the motion.
“In the course of today I have to say that in my time in Donegal County Council it is probably the most constructive day that I have seen taking place here among all the parties,” Cllr. Brogan said.
The budget passed by a vote of 31-1 with independent Cllr. Dessie Shiels casting the lone vote against. Councillors voted on the budget at about 9.20pm, after councillors from the different groupings were given an opportunity to speak on the budget.
Cllr Shiels had proposed the budget be rejected, saying the draft was presented, “in global detail, not minute detail”, and said he believed there was discretionary money to be found in the budget.
The draft budget includes a small business grant scheme that would enable most businesses in the county to access a 5 per cent reduction in rates for 2015. The 5 per cent grant targets businesses that pay 5,000 euro or less a year in rates.
Garry Martin, council director of finance, said that 79.3 per cent of businesses in the county have rates bills of 5,000 euro or less.
“This should have a positive impact on four of five ratepayers in this county,” Mr. Martin said, in his presentation to council.
No ratepayer will pay any more in 2015 than they did in 2014, he said.
In his presentation to councillors on Tuesday morning, County Chief Executive Seamus Neely said that Donegal County Council also expects to recruit 15 to 20 members of staff next year. This would be the first time the council has recruited staff since about 2009.
This was the first time in several years that councillors adopted a budget in one session, without having to adjourn the meeting over a period of days.
See Thursday’s Donegal Democrat for more.