Questions are being asked about whether local authority tenants could be required to pay at least some of the 2014 property tax which Limerick City and County Councils are liable for as owners of the properties.
According to the book of estimates, delivered to county councillors this week, there is no allowance to cover the cost of the tax levied on homeowners.
In the city, councillor Maurice Quinlivan said he was “fearful” that an increase in tenants’ rent might happen. “Two or three euro a week is not a lot to some people but many of our tenants are barely coping,” he commented.
Meetings are taking place in the coming days, with both city and county councillors acutely aware of how politically difficult it could prove to sanction an increase in rents ahead of the local elections.
Cllr Diarmuid Scully said the Fine Gael group in the city are meeting to discuss whether to try and provide money to some of the 3,000 council tenants, with the budget due to be passed on Tuesday.
“Whether such a use of other taxpayers’ money is legal is a question I do not have the answer to yet. Whether it’s desirable, I have serious doubts, but it’s a matter the Fine Gael group will be discussing between now and the Budget meeting once we have all the facts,” he confirmed.
Elsewhere, Limerick City Council’s budget for 2014 has been cut by €1.5m.
The local authority has some €78m to spend in 2014.
The book of estimates provides councillors with recommendations on where money should be allocated in the coming year, ahead of the annual budget meeting next Monday.
There is good news for the business community, with historic decision to recommend a cut the commercial rate by a record 15.8%.
This brings it into line with the County Council’s rate – frozen for a seventh consecutive year – of 59.91c per euro of valuation.
The move comes thanks to a grant from the Department of the Environment.
Mr Murray is recommending an increase in spending on housing and building, from €17.3m this year to €17.9m next year.
There are notable increases in spend in Housing Assessment, Allocation and Transfer, and the Administration of the Homeless Service.
It is proposed to cut spend on roads projects from €10.9m to €10.3m.
Water Services spend is to fall from €13.4m to €12.6m, if the budget is passed unamended, but this is due to much of this function transferring to Irish Water on January 1 next.
Promotion of the city forms an important part of the City Council’s Budget for 2014.
A sector which is likely to see the most widespread changes is that of Development Management.
Some €1.2m is being allocated to tourism development and promotion - up from just over €1m this year.
Meanwhile, spend on economic development and promotion of the city will rise from €198,071 to €869,205 under the plans.
The Street Cleaning budget is set to fall from €3.6m to €3.5m, while expenditure on the operation of the Fire Service will suffer a small cut, from €8.632m to €8.609m, according to the book of estimates.
This forms part of an overall cut in the Environmental Services Budget.
Recreation and Amenity is set for a small cut, from €5.299m to €5.267m, while Agriculture, Education, Health and Welfare spend is expected to drop by almost three quarters – from €2.2m this year to €609,680 next year.
Notably, this sees projected spend on educational support services fall by three quarters from €1.7m to just €255,000.
With City Council and County Council to merge in May next, both the City budget and the County Council budget will be merged by management.
County councillors will formally adopt their budget this Tuesday.
Cllr Quinlivan has admitted some concern over some aspects of the budget, in particular the Housing Adaptation Grant, as well as the Bin Waiver scheme.
Cllr Scully, the leader of Fine Gael on the council said that while his group was broadly happy with the book of estimates. “We have not - as yet - made a decision as to whether we are happy with all aspects of it,” he said.
Councillors are due to meet on Monday.