By Keith Bourke
Ballina 2023 is to be allocated €200,000 from Mayo County Council following a tempestuous budget meeting.
The local authority met yesterday (Monday) to decide its €176.5m budget for next year. There will be no increase in the commercial rates.
The council’s Head of Finance, Peter Duggan, outlined to councillors the challenges faced by the local authority for the year ahead, with payroll costs increasing by €3.6m and energy costs rocketing by €2.7m. Gratuity payments are projected to rise by €800,000.
The council executive revealed that Government supports are enabling the council to forecast a balanced budget for 2023 with more than €2.2m being provided towards energy and fuel costs and over €3.6m to help finance wage increases under the National Pay Agreement.
The council is also projecting a €393,000 drop in parking charges next year. Mr Duggan said Pay and Display income has so far failed to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fianna Fail whip, Cllr Damien Ryan, proposed a number of amendments to the budget, including an increase to the allocation for Ballina’s 300-year anniversary celebrations by €100,000 which will see funding Mayo County Council funding for the year-long event rise to €200,000.
Cllr Ryan also proposed an additional €40,000 to aid Ireland West Airport in its development of new routes and €30,000 extra for the maintenance of playgrounds. His amendments also included €20,000 to deal with any severe weather events; €10,000 to fund any additional support or advice needed by councillors; and an increase in Notice of Motion funding from €50,000 to €60,000.
Fine Gael whip, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly, stated that he did not oppose Cllr Ryan’s proposal but also had a number of amendments.
He proposed providing an additional €75,000 to the Ballina 2023 fund which would bring the allocation up to €275,000; €20,000 more for council house maintenance; and a further €20,000 for the county’s beaches.
Cllr Munnelly contended that the extra €120,000 required for these alterations could be funded through an adjustment of Irrecoverable Rates and the Property Entry Levy figures.
“Before you start accusing me of fantasy economics,” he said, pointing to the other side of the Chamber, “these are based on facts.”
However, Mr Duggan said he did not believe there was enough flexibility in the budget to provide the additional €120,000 proposed.
Cllr Ryan accused Fine Gael of ‘kindergarten stuff’, while Cllr Munnelly shot back that Fianna Fáil and their Independent allies in the Chamber have overseen multiple rates increases.
“If we propose a budget where the figures don’t add up then what kind of gobshites do we look like?” asked Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Brendan Mulroy.
A vote on the Fine Gael amendments was defeated by 15-11.