Donegal County Council Chief Executive Officer, Seamus Neely.
The members of Donegal County Council have voted not to change the rate of the Local Property Tax (LPT) for 2018.
At a meeting in Lifford on Monday they held a recorded ballot in the chamber to see if they would vary the rate.
The council agenda outlined that the members would consider whether they wish to pass a resolution to vary the Local property tax in County Donegal in respect of 218 by up to 15%.
Donegal County Council’s Director of Finance, Garry Martin, said they had an obligation to make a decision on the matter before September 30th.
He highlighted that the rate had not varied in the last three years.
He said the proposal had also been open to public consultation over the summer months and they received two submissions from the public on the issue.
He added that homeowners in Inishowen who have been affected by the recent flooding will not be liable to pay the tax until they are back in their homes and it will also be open to them to defer payment is they are experiencing continued hardship thereafter.
The meeting heard from Director of Service, Joe Peoples, that there was potentially two votes on the matter - the first to either agree or disagree to vary the rate, and if this was passed a second vote would take place to agree the amount of variation.
Sinn Féin Cllr Marie Therese Gallagher said as a party they were against the tax from the outset as it was a tax on the family home that was “not equitable and not fair”.
She proposed that they reduce the tax by 15% from it current level.
This was seconded by Cllr Gary Doherty who said the reduction would put up to €1.6million “back into the pockets” of Donegal people.
Independent Cllr Michael McBride proposed they keep the rate as it currently was and this was seconded by Cllr Nicholas Crossan .
Before the vote took place, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council, Seamus Neely said that while the council finances had “improved significantly” in recent times they still remained “challenging” as they prepare for the 2018 budget.
He said that if the council sought to reduce the current rate of LPT by 15% could lead to an increase of up to 16% in commercial rates for local businesses.
Cllr Frank McBrearty said raising commercial rates could cause “damage” for those in the small to medium business sector adding that there was four new businesses recently established in his home town of Raphoe and he felt a rise of commercial rates would only negatively impact on such new ventures.
Cllr Barry O’Neill said they should consider what message they are sending out if they raised commercial rates and that the council should work to encourage more business.
He said there were eight new businesses open in Portnason, Ballyshannon in the last five years and this resulted in the creation of over 60 jobs and this was something that should be supported.
Cllr Bernard McGuinness, who is also a publican, said as a rates payer himself he sees many rural businesses “closing around me”.
He said a raise of 15% in the LPT was the equivalent of “a packet of Benson & Hedges cigarettes” per household and that they should not ask businesses for more rates.
“People need to get into the Real World”
The veteran councillor said people “need to get into the real world”.
Joe Peoples then conducted the recorded vote among the elected members in the first of the ballots.
The result finished 18 votes in favour for not varying the rate and keeping it as it was, 14 were in favour of altering the LPT rate, with one councillor abstaining.
As a result no further ballot was required and the rate will stay the same for the year ahead.