By Eoin Kelleher
CASHEL’S Annual Draft Budget for 2012 was approved unanimously on Monday evening, paving the way for the continued operation of South Tipp’s Motor Taxation Office on Friar Street. Due to impending staff retirements and already minimal staffiing levels, the office in Cashel was in danger of closing.
However, a last minute intervention by Town Manager Séan Keating ensured that the office will now remain open, though with reduced opening hours.
As a sign of the economic times, Mr Keating explained to Councillors that the estimated revenue expenditure for next year will be 14% lower than in 2008. “This reduction demonstrates the scale of the challenge facing us in continuing to provide a good level of service to the people of Cashel, including maintaining current employment levels and meeting our statutory obligations as a local authority.”
Mr Keating said management had to make last minute adjustments to the budget to balance the books, after it was announced that the Local Government Fund (LGF) was being reduced by 9% instead of 5% as previously thought. “This means that we have to had to review our estimates since last week and find a further €21,447 in order to achieve a balanced budget for 2012.”
The estimated expenditure for the 2012 Budget is now €2,552,549. Mr Keating proposed meeting the shortfall of €21,447 by cutting spending rather than raising additional income. Most charges will remain unchanged in 2012: there will be no increase in commercial rates, or parking charges.
The Council will reduce by €14,500 the amount in the draft budget towards maintenance of burial grounds, specifically towards future costs for the extension of Cormac’s Cemetery. Another €1,000 will be taken from the allocation for local road improvements.
The draft budget that had been prepared proposed no changes to the volumetric charge for water and wastewater. However, due to the shortfall, Mr Keating proposed an increase in the amount charged per cubic meter for water and for wastewater from €1.05 to €1.10, leading to a combined water and wastewater charge increase from €2.10 to €2.20 per cubic metre. “This is still one of the lowest charges in the country,” said Mr Keating. The standing charge per metre in 2012 will be €100, while the minimum charge for water will reduce from €250 to €220, and the combined minimum charge (water and wastewater) will reduce from €300 to €250. The minimum charges are inclusive of the €100 standing charge.
This change to the volumetric water charges is expected to bring an extra income of about €6,000. Hotelier Cllr PJ Quinlan said he was very disappointed with the increase, as it would hit the tourist trade in Cashel. “Together with the reductions to expenditure already mentioned, this small increase will completely offset the shortfall in our LGF”, said Mr Keating.
The new office opening hours for South Tipp’s Motor Taxation Office in Cashel will be from 9.05am until 1.30pm Monday to Friday, the change coming into effect on Monday, January 16th 2012. The current opening hours are from 9.10am to 12.45pm, and from 2.15pm to 4pm. The public also have the option of taxing their vehicles online, which they can do at any time once a PIN Number is issued with their motor tax reminder form. This policy has now been extended to commercial vehicles that have a current Certificate of Roadworthiness. Taxing one’s vehicle through the free postal service that currently exists will continue to be operated by the Motor Tax Office. Driving Licence applications may also be sent by post to the motor tax office, said Mr Keating.
Mr Keating also pointed to the 20-minute period of free car parking on the streets of Cashel. The Budget was formally proposed by Cllr Séan McCarthy, and seconded by Cllr Joe Moloney. Some other notable points in the Cashel’s 2012 Budget include: water reconnection fee of €500, with Gravespace/Interment at €450. The budget was approved by all Councillors, except for Cllr Martin Browne (SF), who was absent for family reasons.
Mr Keating highlighted successes Cashel had achieved over the past 12 months, with the visit of Queen Elisabeth II in May, Cashel’s “impeccable” hosting of the EU Charter event in June, continuing improvements to the City Walls and the huge increase in Tidy Towns activities throughout the year.
“Cashel Tidy Town Committee led by example and energised so many individuals, resulting in a significant increase in marks in the national Tidy Towns Competition. Cashel also took the prize for the ‘most improved’ town in the County Council Environmental awards in 2011, held in Cashel last week,” concluded Mr Keating.