Longford County Council expects to amass expenditure of almost €40 million, including a retiring councillors’ gratuity provision of €0.5m, during 2014.
Councillors, who will pocket €607,479 (a decrease of 8.9%) in representational payments and expenses, meet next Monday at Áras an Chontae to consider and sign off on the draft local authority budget.
The Council’s audited financial statement for 2012 shows an accumulated deficit of €301,000 and while County Manager Tim Caffrey stresses in his report that “elimination of this deficit remains a priority” it is likely the costs of the voluntary redundancy scheme will cause a further deficit in 2013.
Overall estimated expenditure for 2014 comes to €39,414,401, an increase of €1.6 million on the previous year.
Extra pension costs of €570,000 have been factored into the budget arising out of the Haddington Road Agreement and Voluntary Redundancy Scheme.
Local Government Reform initiatives, including the abolition of Longford and Granard Town Councils and a reduction in the number of county councillors from 21 to 18 together with a number of planned retirements, have necessitated a gratuity provision of €500,000.
A provision of €140,000 has been made for the running of this year’s local elections.
Income for 2014 is estimated at €34,648,625 and Mr Caffrey pointed out that this leaves a balance of €4,765,776 “to be levied by way of rates.”
He added, “The annual rate on valuation (ARV) required is €65.35, no increase on the adopted rate for 2013. This follows four successive years of rate reductions.”
The Bad Debt provision for rates is estimated at €900,000, an increase of €40,000 on the 2013 figure. According to Mr Caffrey, “This provision is to cover both vacancies and loss of revenue due to businesses which find themselves in financial difficulties.”
Mr Caffrey outlined that the 2014 budget was prepared against a backdrop of unprecedented change in local government.
Longford County Council will deliver water services under a service level agreement on behalf of Irish Water and a new category of income, amounting to €9,599,770 (24.4% of estimated income), is included in the budget for the first time.
The Council will be billing commercial customers on behalf of Irish Water during the first half of 2014 and it is intended Irish Water will take over billing responsibility for the second half of the year.
Mr Caffrey pointed out, “Longford Co Co will continue to provide meter readings and water charges will remain at their present levels pending the setting of new charges for the Commissioner for Energy Regulation.
Mr Caffrey commented, “Every effort has been made to maintain essential services within the financial constraints we have and this is being achieved by a focus on operational savings and reduction of back office costs.”
An estimated €10,188,213 will be spent on water services (an increase of almost €2.2 million on 2013) and Mr Caffrey said the reason for this was due to the commissioning of the Design Build and Operate (DBO) five village scheme and additional loan charges for borrowings in connection with water services capital projects. He added, “These items are to be funded by Irish Water.”
The spend on Development Management increases by 20% and rises to €3,552,436 and this is due to the inclusion of a provision of €697,000 in respect of the local enterprise office which is due to be established early in 2014.
Estimated expenditure for the housing and building Service Division amounts to €5,688,497 (a reduction of €3,999,003). The imposition of Local Property tax on social housing will cost the Council an circa €130,000 for 2014. Provision for housing maintenance has been reduced by €20,000 to €600,000 and provision for estate management has been maintained at €85,500.
Expenditure on Road Transport & Safety is budgeted at €8,577,291 (a reduction of €498,919). The Council’s contribution from their own resources to the upkeep of local roads is budgeted at €766,000, contingent on a transfer of development contributions of €200,000.
The budget for Environment Services estimated at €4,505,595 and Recreation & Amenity estimated at €2,171,369 are also reductions on 2013.