THE proposed hike in commercial rates could make horse trainer Jessica Harrington’s business unsustainable. The well known trainer, who recently added the Cheltenham Gold Cup to her list of successes, told a public meeting in Athy last Thursday that her rates bill will go up by around €1,800 to €18,000 next year.“We will not be able to sustain that. €4,000 is the rate on our sheds. Our stables produce an income for us but our sheds don’t bring in a cent. Previously we were on farmers’ rates but now we are classed as a leisure activity. Anyone who knows what we do will know that the outcome may be leisurely but we are hard working and they have the wrong end of the stick here,” she said.
Ms Harrington was one of a number of business people to speak at a public meeting in the Clanard Court Hotel held in the aftermath of the issuing of rates revaluations which have seen some commercial rates bills double.
Mary Fennin, owner of the Clanard Court Hotel, said the hotel has saved €150,000 in the past 12 years because they had appealed the initial rates valuation for the hotel.
Ms Fennin told the meeting that when the hotel opened 12 years ago they had engaged a professional to examine the rates valuation that had been given. They successfully appealed the valuation the hotel had saved €150,000 in the intervening 12 years.
She said under the recent revaluation the commercial rates for the hotel are due to rise by 35%. “It is definitely worth appealing, there are savings to be made. We close for two weeks over Christmas and we were told that being closed over those two weeks makes no difference to the rates but we are challenging that to see if the closure can work in our favour,” she said.
At the meeting businesses were urged not to miss the 18 April deadline for appeals to the rates revaluations.
The meeting, which was chaired by Eddie Hobbs, was organised by Marcella O’Reilly of Buy Design in Crookstown and Adrian Conlan of Conlan’s Centra in Athy.
Mrs O’Reilly told the meeting that rates should be fair and equitable and should not have the effect of crippling businesses.
Adrian Conlan said: “We were told that 60% of businesses would see their rates decrease and 40% would see an increase. I would love to know who that 60% are because I haven’t heard from them.”
Mr Conlan said his rates will increase from €20,000 to €37,000. “I cannot afford the extra €17,000 because it will eat into my ability to grow my business and take on workers who can then come off the live register.”
The domino effect of increased rates was laid before the meeting with one contributor putting it very starkly.
“If the rates increase causes two businesses on a street to close that has a knock on effect for the remaining businesses who will see footfall drop and this may squeeze them and cause other businesses to close. A town like Athy can’t afford for that to happen.”
The owner of the Crookstown Inn then said Jessica Harrington’s employees were his customers and if she had to lay off staff because of the rates it would adversely affect his business.
The meeting closed with the formation of a committee to decide on what action should be taken by businesses if appeals aren’t successful. There was also a reminder to all to appeal their rates by 18 April.
Kildare South Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon said appeals based on sentiment alone will not carry much weight. “ Appeals should be backed up by evidence and facts as much as possible, particularly of other rental valuations in your own area.”
Deputy Heydon said he had been contacted by a number of sports clubs in relation to their rates. “ will be pushing for legislation to take account of sports halls that currently are being rated for having teenage discos in their halls. The valuation office are wrong in this interpretation to rate these halls and I will push for a change in the law if those clubs aren’t successful on appeal,” he said.
Staff from the Valuation Office will be in the Athy Municipal District Office for a walk-in clinic tomorrow Wednesday 5 April to answer queries on the revaluation process and offer guidance on making representations.
“This is a good opportunity for local businesses to speak directly to valuation office staff and get advice on their own particular case,” said Deptuy Heydon.