Louth County Council yesterday evening voted to reduce the rate of Local Property Tax by 1.5%.
The cut in the tax is the equivalent of taking between €140,000 and €150,000 out of the council budget.
It came about after a two hour meeting in which a number of proposals were defeated. Sinn Féin had sought to cut the property tax rate by the maximum 15%, with proposals for cuts of 7.5% and 2% also being put forward by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael respectively. There was also a motion for no reduction from the Green Party.
All of these were defeated before the 1.5% amendment was passed on the casting vote of chairman Cllr Oliver Tully after 13 votes for and 13 against.
Councillors had been debating a potential cut for some time, including taking part in a workshop on the matter last week.
They had been warned by council officials that any cut in the property tax rate would have to be made up elsewhere.
After the meeting, Fine Gael councillor for Dundalk-Carlingford John McGahon said while he would like to have seen a bigger cut it was not possible.
Indeed, he accused Sinn Féin of a “reckless political move” in trying to force through a full 15% cut in the property tax.
He said: “I had hoped to see a more significant cut in the region of 2-5%. Fine Gael tabled a motion to reduce the property tax by 2%, however this was defeated.
“I took this vote very seriously and I was disappointed to see other councillors did not do the same. Sinn Féin proposed a full reduction of 15%, to my mind this was a financially reckless proposal which would have taken €1.4 million out of the council budget.
“I find it very disheartening that people were prepared to push the council off a financial cliff. It’s simple maths, if you are going to take €1.4 million out of a budget, you have to find the savings to make up the shortfall. Sinn Fein’s reckless approach involved voting for 15% and not considering the financial consequences.
“It is important to note that, out of ten Sinn Fein Councilors, not one of them turned up to the budget workshop meeting where a detailed analysis of the accounts was carried out, line by line, and councillors sought to see where a reduction could be made.
“This budget goes towards providing basic services like street lighting, maintenance of public parks, maintenance of roads, library services, Tidy Towns.
“Had 15% gone through, all of these services would have been drastically slashed and the people of Louth would have suffered. 1.5% may not seem substantial, but its €150,000 euro. It will be a base from which we can work towards reducing the property tax more over the next five years. But let me make myself clear, a 15% cut would have sent the council into financial chaos, I am proud that I voted to stop that happening,” he said.