Carrick-on-Suir Town Council passed its â‚¬4.26m budget for the year ahead by an overwhelming majority of six votes to one with no increases in commerical rates or car parking charges on the way.
The commercial rates levy imposed on the townâ€™s businesses will remain at the same level as the past four year at a Rateable Valuation Multiplier of 50.99.
The Council has decided to continue with the 20 minutes free parking scheme on Main Street, Sean Kelly Square, Kickham Street and New Street as well as free parking at the Fair Green Car Park.
And it will continue to absorb the 2% VAT increase imposed in July, 2010, which means no increase in car parking fees.
Town Clerk Michael Oâ€™Brien rejected Independent Cllr Patsy Fitzgeraldâ€™s call to extend the 20 minutes free parking scheme to Town Wall Street, William Street and Castle Street.
Mr Oâ€™Brien said the Council couldnâ€™t afford to extend the scheme any further. â€œIf we increase the area the whole 20 minutes free parking scheme will collapse,â€ he said.
And he pointed out that the Council had effectively reduced car parking charges in the town over the past two years by not applying a VAT increase.
In commercial water charges, businesses will pay a lower fixed standing charge of â‚¬150 for water and also â‚¬150 for consolidated water and waste water. This compares to standing charges of â‚¬220 for water and â‚¬250 for water and waste water last year.
But the waste water usage charge will increase from â‚¬1.10 per 1000 litres to â‚¬1.20 per 1000 litres and the consolidated water and waste water charge will rise from â‚¬2.20 to v2.30 per 1000 litres.
There will be no increase in metered water usage, which remains at â‚¬1.10 per 1000 litres.
The Town Clerk informed councillors that the Council will receive a Local Government Fund grant of â‚¬860,228 next year, which will be a 5 per cent reduction that translates to v45,275 fall on this yearâ€™s grant. The grant accounts for 20% of the Town Councilâ€™s income.
The projected income revenue from commercial rates is â‚¬914,834, which will account for 21.5 per cent of the Councilâ€™s revenue. Mr Oâ€™Brien said he considered it to be a fair budget. He didnâ€™t expect the elected Council to be 100% satisfied with the Budget but they had tried to take on board the points made by councillors at the Budget workshop.
â€œThe priority was not to increase rates and car parking charges and we have done that. We havenâ€™t increased rates in the last four years and we have brought the standing charge for water down to â‚¬150.
â€œThe big challenge for the Council is to continue to maintain services despite a reduction in staff and cuts. We have managed to do that, though it has been a challenge.â€
Mr Oâ€™Brien said the Councilâ€™s finances werenâ€™t too bad and that was because councillors adopted prudent budgets over the past number of years.
Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan was the only councillor to vote against the Budget and she did so as a protest against the Governmentâ€™s decision to abolish town councils and to disproportionately tax lower income people with the introduction of the property tax and water charges.
â€œI think what the Government is doing to town councils is absolutely disgraceful. This Town Council has worked diligently for Carrick-on-Suir and should be allowed to do soâ€
The Fianna Fail councillor, who also voted against the Co. Council Budget, spoke out against the Governmentâ€™s introduction of the Property Tax and water charges.
Cllr Cooney-Sheehan said there was massive concern that the Government was hitting lower income people and doing very little to the people getting massive pensions.
But she got no support for her stance from her elected colleagues.
Cllr Patsy Fitzgerald said he was a little upset that Cllr Cooney-Sheehan was voting against the Budget. He dismissed her reasons as â€œspuriousâ€ and pointed out that the Council would abolish itself if it didnâ€™t pass the Budget within a few days.
Fine Gael Cllr Margaret Croke was equally scathing.
â€œI would have loved to be in power for 16 years and now take no responsibility for what is happening. It would be lovely to sit and have a halo over my head at this meeting,â€ she declared with sarcasm.
â€œThe Budget is very serious,â€ she continued.â€Itâ€™s out duty to pass it. We work for the people of Carrick-on-Suir and I think itâ€™s as fair a budget as can be brought before the Council at the moment,â€ she added.
â€œA halo over my head,â€ exclaimed Cllr Cooney-Sheehan with indignation and accused Cllr Croke of getting personal with her criticism.
She pointed out that she hadnâ€™t personally been at the â€œtable of powerâ€ over the past 16 years and reminded Cllr Croke that the people of Ireland thought Fianna Fail were good enough to be there for 16 years.
Meanwhile, Independent Cllr Pierce Oâ€™Loughlin said he was tempted to vote no in protest over the Property Tax but he wouldnâ€™t be doing so as he was satisfied with the Budgetâ€™s provisions relating to water charges and that commercial rate wasnâ€™t increasing.
Mayor of Carrick-on-Suir Cllr Liam Walsh agreed. He too had a serious problem with the Property Tax but the Budget was as fair are you could get and he proposed that it be approved by the Council.
Cllr Kieran Bourke seconded the proposal and welcomed in particular the fixed water charge of â‚¬150 while Cllr Oâ€™Neill said he would be supporting the Budget beccause of the Ballylynch remedial scheme and welcomed that council housing rents wonâ€™t increase next year.
In the vote, Cllrs Croke, Fitzgerald, Walsh, Oâ€™Loughlin, Bourke and Oâ€™Neill voted in favour and Cllr. Cooney-Sheehan voted against.