On being elected I was determined that funds collected from the local property tax (LPT) must be spent locally and not redirected back to national government. At council level, we have made allocations around the district with significant grants being made to Tidy Towns and residents association groups across the Naas district. The LPT monies are also being targeted at playgrounds in Kill, Sallins and Caragh, undergrounding of cables on Naas main street and support for the Naas-Sallins greenway. I have also brought forward various road projects for attention and tried to get a balance according to geography and where the need was greatest.
The Fianna Fáil party has published a Bill to provide property tax relief for homeowners who are paying management fees. There are thousands of homeowners living in managed estates across Kildare, and indeed Ireland, who are paying on the double for many services. This is an issue I raised many months ago in a submission to the Revenue Commissioners during a recent consultation on Local Property Tax.
The Fianna Fáil Bill provides a discount on property tax worth a third of the management fee, up to a maximum of €300 a year. Thousands of people living in apartments or managed estates are paying a fortune in management fees every year. This pays for some of the services that the council would otherwise provide, including keeping the grounds, maintaining the roads and paths, maintaining public lighting and managing drainage.
In the 2015 budget at Kildare County Council which was set in late 2014, Fianna Fáil led a motion to cut Local Property Tax by 7.5% for Kildare which was passed and which householders will see the saving in their LPT bills this year. In addition to the tax cut, a further 7.5% of LPT collected was ring fenced for each Municipal District to be spent at the discretion of the elected councillors. In the Naas area agreement has now been reached to use this fund for the following in 2015.
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Coming into the new council in May I would have instinctively favoured cutting the property tax by the maximum possible cut of 15% when that time came. However even in the short few months of council meetings since it has been very apparent that the council needs more funds to provide the basic services we all want to see in our localities. Being unable to progress roads improvements, playgrounds, flood relief schemes, taking in charge, town renewal schemes, and much more from lack of funding is a very frustrating position to be in. I remain committed to passing on the greatest possible rebate to tax payers but that has to be done in a responsible way. A view I have expressed repeatedly is that with the advent of the LPT, the council must assume a deeper obligation on service provision in return.
I have put in updated requests for progress on the taking in charge of estates as another winter sets in and some estates are still without lighting. Last year I obtained records through the freedom of information act which confirmed a council decision to cut-off 85 estates from maintenance so that, among other things, their street lights were not to be repaired.
This was rightly a huge controversy last winter as people were amazed the government could levy a property charge and yet literally leave people in the dark with street light servicing being withdrawn from many estates.