There is not €1.5m to be found anywhere in the accounts, chief executive officer Joan Martin, has told Louth county councillors, who are trying to find ways to cut 15 per cent in the county’s property tax.
The chief executive has warned that cuts could only be made in community areas which would affect tidy towns groups, and library services, and she did not believe this should happen.
The council will hold a special workshop this Wednesday 24 September to examine how savings could be made in other areas if councillors decide to cut the property tax.
They have until 30 September to decide.
“I want to know where the €1.5million is going to be found in the budget,” Joan Martin, chief executive Louth County Council, asked councillors at last Friday’s meeting, adjourned from the previous Monday.
“It is for you to identify where the cuts will be made,” she said. “My report stated there is no room for cuts. Cuts can only be made in community areas and that is not advisable. It is not realistic to look for cuts that cannot be achieved.”
Sinn Fein councillor Tomas Sharkey wanted members to make a decision there and then to reduce the property tax by 15 per cent and then work out the details.
“We do need to hear what efficiencies can be made,” he said, “not what savings we can make. We have a big picture here. We can work together to get a budget in December that will work.”
Ms Martin said the property tax is part of the budget.
Sinn Fein’s Imelda Munster said there was no suggestions in the manager’s report on how savings could be made as opposed to services can be cut.
She said the council has not organised a debt collection system and at least €1.2m interest is being paid on land bought in the Celtic Tiger era.
“We can’t build social housing, yet we are paying €1.2m of our budget on interest,” she said.
“I am shocked and disappointed that there has been no real effort to show any savings.”
Fine Gael’s Colm Markey said that he had proposed at the council’s July monthly meeting that a workshop should be held by the executive and councillors during which they could examine the accounts and see where changes could be made.
The new structure of the county council could then be examined.
Green Party councillor Mark Dearey said Louth is a county that does not have a revenue surplus.
“We have a revenue deficit,” he said. “If we vote for this cut it will consign us to an unworkable budget that will fail.”
Fine Gael councillor Maria Doyle said councillors should not be focusing on cuts, but efficiency.
As an example of inefficiency, she pointed to the work on pedestrian crossings carried out at the Square in Dundalk, work that had to be redone at great cost.
She added that she wanted the council to follow up on its insistence of a zero tolerance on rent arrears.