Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown councillors have rejected a bid by the council’s management to raise the level of local property tax.
For the last three years councillors have taken advantage of a rule which allows them to reduce by 15 per cent the maximum amount of property tax in their administrative area.
A majority of councillors on Monday voted down a proposal that this year the reduction offered to householders would drop from 15 per cent to just 5 per cent. The majority of councillors also voted down a compromise proposal from the Labour Party which would have seen homeowners offered a discount of 10 per cent off the maximum chargeable.
During the debate, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council chief executive Philomena Poole appealed to councillors to consider the “very severe” financial position facing the council in the run up to its budget in two months time.
Each 1 per cent of local property tax would provide an additional €518,000 for the council’s budget, she said, adding that the decision to vary by the full 15 per cent would cost it €7.8 million.
However, the majority of councillors argued that home owners should be given the full reduction allowable .
A number said the local property tax was “unfair” and “a Dublin tax” as home prices in the capital and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown in particular, were higher than elsewhere in the State. This meant that locals bore a disproportionate burden when it came to the tax, they said.
Cllr Michael Merrigan (Independent) said 20 per cent of local property tax was shared with other local authorities as a balancing measure making it “a tax raised locally for central funds”.
He said because of the high property prices in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown the council would be subsidising other local authorities “and we have no control over how they spend their money”.
Proposing a full 15 per cent reduction, Cllr John Baily (Fine Gael) said Fianna Fáil, the Greens and Fine Gael had agreed to pass on the maximum reduction and would stand behind that.
Cllr Ossian Smyth (Green Party) said the tax was inequitable as 1,000 acres of development land in the council area was not being charged the tax, giving property developers a “free pass” while householders had to pay.
Cllr Shay Brennan (Fianna Fáil) said the local property tax was “a Dublin tax” and it had been agreed in previous years the correct response was to offer homeowners the maximum discount “and we stand behind that”.
Calling for a compromise of a 10 rather than 15 per cent reduction in the maximum charge, Cllr Peter O’Brien (Labour) said the compromise would provide some €2.8 million for the council’s coffers. His Labour colleague Cllr Alex White, a former minister, said it was an “oxymoron” that councilllors from the left wing would argue against a property tax.
The councillors voted 29 to seven in favour of maintaining the local property tax reduction at 15 per cent for the coming year.