Pressures across the income spectrum will lead to revenue losses of €4.5 million during 2010 for Waterford City Council, according to City Manager Michael Walsh.
With predicted losses of €1 million in rates, €2.1 million in Government grants, €1 million in miscellaneous fees and €400,000 from refuse collection, Mr Walsh’s reference to “challenging times” seem entirely justified.
With that in mind, Waterford City Councillors voted in favour of the proposed document at Monday night’s meeting at City Hall.
“It is imperative that we manage this situation carefully to ensure the continued financial stability of the organisation and our ongoing capacity to deliver quality services to the city,” he states in his Budget comments.
Given the pressures on businesses, who currently contribute over 40 per cent of the Council’s Budget, there will be no increases in rates or water charges come the New Year.
“I am only too conscious of the need to sustain enterprise activity,” Mr Walsh continued.
“I would have flagged at last year’s Budget that water charges would have to increase this year to take account of the full cost of the new Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“In current circumstances, I do not believe this to be sustainable and accordingly am proposing no increase. I would hope that this would be acknowledged as a de facto reduction in costs to the business sector and reflective of our commitment to retain competitiveness as a city.”
Road maintenance looks like an area that’s set for a big hit in the immediate future due to a €1 million reduction in state grants, much to the Manager’s disappointment.
“In my view the reduced level of investment is not sustainable in the long term and will ultimately result in deteriorating road conditions,” he added.
“In current circumstances, I cannot propose that the Council make up for the shortfall at Government level but would hope to redress the issue in coming years.”
While greater investment in housing maintenance, water services and the “presentation of the city” would be provided were monies available, Mr Walsh states that reductions in these three areas are slightly “more tolerable”.
Meanwhile, arts and culture reductions have been limited to five per cent given how this sector contributes “greatly to the vitality and diversity of our city, as well as being a significant direct employer”.
Over the past 18 months, over 50 people, approximately one eighth of the Council’s entire staff, have left or have not been replaced, the Budget report also reveals.
“We have significantly reduced out staff numbers and the cumulative reduction in expenditure for 2010, relative to the current year is €1.7 million in the areas of payroll, pensions and lump sums,” writes Mr Walsh.
“I would estimate that towards €1,000,000 on savings will be delivered as a result of these processes, relative to the Budget for 2009.”
In recommending the Budget, Mr Walsh stated his belief that the document represented “a fair balance in continuing investment in the city’s infrastructure and social supports”. He added: “(it also ensures) that the imposition on the business sector is restricted.”
Concluding, Michael Walsh writes: “I know that working together as a team we (in the Executive) can continue to support this Council, in its endeavours towards the continuing improvement of Waterford as a place to do business, visit and live.”