The release of new valuations on Leitrim businesses last week has been termed brutal, confusing and crazy by local councillors.
At the end of last week, Co Leitrim businesses received notification of their new commercial valuation from the Valuation Office in Dublin. The notification did not quote the individual businesses' rate liability but instead quoted the re-valuation figure which, in Leitrim's case is 435% more than the liability.
The figure on the letter scared and shocked many small business owners, before they realised they had to calculate their annual commercial rate.
Businessman and Fine Gael Councillor, John McCartin described the notice as a “brutal and confusing message leading business owners to mistakenly believe that their rates had gone up by a multiple of four.”
Cllr McCartin also castigated some local politicians for adding fuel to the fire adding, “Politicians grabbing headlines with talk of rates hikes and proclaiming that the majority of businesses have had their rates risen are not only misleading their constituents, they are just stirring the flames of discontent. For every business who had an increase, another had a decrease,” he told the Leitrim Observer.
Cllr McCartin said he was aware of a number of business who did seem to have been unfairly disadvantaged by exorbitant re-valuations but he urged business people in this position to engage with the representations process and to attend the “Walk in Clinics” in Leitrim County Council's Offices, Aras an Chontae on February 6 and 7 from 9am to 5pm to discuss any queries. Staff from the Valuation Office will be there to discuss any queries on the Proposed Valuation Certificates.
Carrigallen Councillor, Paddy O’Rourke said it was “chaos” across the county last week when the first re-valuations were released.
He said some properties received “inflated valuations” while others received notifications on businesses that have not been open for two generations.
“In the gloomiest month of the year people were spooked by this letter” stated Cllr O'Rourke, adding “people are on the edge financially.”
The Fianna Fáil councillor said he knows a business that paid €560 in rates last year and their new rate will be €3,500.
Cllr Brendan Barry said he understood rates in Carrick-on-Shannon went up a lot and the value of Main Street parking was added to an individual's figure.
Fianna Fáil councillor Caillian Ellis said businesses feel they are receiving nothing in return for paying rates. He said 15 years ago businesses in towns got their refuse collected for free.
The council took issue with his statement and outlined the large number of services they provide such as roads, public lighting, REDZ and funding under towns and villages.
Acting Head of Finance, Vincent Dwyer told the Ballinamore Municipal meeting on Monday that the council were “out of the loop” on individual valuations, but they have been dealing with calls since the notices were sent out.
He informed them that businesses have 40 days to appeal the new valuation before the final cert is issued. He advised businesses to attend the council's walk in clinics and to provide as much detail as possible on their business to the Valuation Office.
He said if basic details are not provided the office “will make assumptions.” Large buildings in “prime locations” in towns and villages may have been valued on their potential as opposed to their current worth.
The council said while the total figure of rates from the county will remain the same, there will be winners and losers.