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€1.7m of commercial rates still uncollected by town council

Ennis Town Council had  €1.7 million in uncollected commercial rates on December 31, 2009, according to the latest annual statement produced by the local authority.
While town manager Ger Dollard expects that most of these outstanding rates bills will be collected, he admitted the amount of overdue rates was a matter of concern for the authority.
Mr Dollard told councillors at a local authority meeting on Wednesday the council couldn’t provide services for people in the town unless it collected this money.
The town authority’s accounts also showed there was €5.896m in total due for collection in 2010 after €1.065m was carried forward at the start of the year before deductions. The total amount collected at December 31, 2010 was €4.142m, the amount of irrecoverable rates was €528,930 while the total amount as a percentage of total for collection was 70%.
While the council was offering traders deferred payments and other payment methods to make it easier to pay rates, Councillor Peter Considine warned that the authority would have to seriously consider a minor decrease in rates as some traders were finding it impossible to pay them.
Mr Dollard noted the council had adjusted its rate for a few years and at this stage it was hard to say what their income and expenditure would be for the next budget estimates.
He was optimistic that the council was on the right track as it continued to reduce costs and focused on obtaining an increase in its income.
The council’s 2010 annual financial statement showed a small positive operating profit of €102,725 in its revenue account. This represents an overall improvement in the council’s revenue account and reverses the negative result of 2009.
Mr Dollard explained that the AFS reflected the position at a particular point in time and could change if the accounts were prepared a few weeks later.
He said it was important to assess underlying issues and trends when viewing the accounts.
Expenditure on the revenue account, excluding transfers, amounted to €11.867m while the income on the Revenue Account amounted to €5.214m in 2010.
In addition to income at division level, there was income of €7.613m in respect of the Local Government Fund, pension-related deductions and rates in the year.
The principal variances from budgeted expenditure and income for 2010 were payroll savings realised from a reduction in pay rates across the public service and additional income received from the Non-Principal Private Residence Charge.
Loan charges were under budget, mainly due to the fact that an additional loan for Section E of the Inner Relief Road that was budgeted for wasn’t drawn down.
Income from traffic fines and parking charges were less than budgeted. A higher provision for potential bad debts in respect of commercial rates was required, reflecting the current difficult economic climate.
Additional expenditure was spent on the maintenance of Lees Road and other recreational facilities.
The value of fixed assets stood at €159,840,182, which showed a decrease from 2009 due to depreciation. No assets were purchased or created in 2010.
Total capital debt stood at €8.546m at December 31, 2010, which related to loans that are used to fund various projects. There were no new loans drawn down in 2010 and principal repayments for the year amounted to €557,444.
Water supply and sewage expenditure amounted to €233,933 and this involved capital spending on the Flood Relief Scheme at Aughanteroe.

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