A view of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Following heated arguments between Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the Finance Ministry over the municipality’s emergency economic needs amid an ongoing terrorism wave, Barkat announced he will submit the 2016 municipal budget to the City Council for final approval by Monday.
This year’s annual budget, which at NIS 7 billion is 5% larger compared to last year’s, “continues the increase in allotments for education, residential areas, neighborhoods, culture, and economic development from 2015,” the municipality said.
“This continued growth in the city budget has been made possible because of funds Barkat and the municipality secured from the government of Israel, and from growth in independent income in the city.”
The announcement comes after a very public, protracted battle between Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon over considerable emergency funds for the capital, which culminated in a city-wide sanitation strike by fired workers, leaving the city littered in refuse.
The conflict came to an end in January when the ministry agreed to allocate NIS 205 million to balance the municipal budget, allowing the mayor to rehire the sanitation workers and cease threats of massive municipal layoffs.
“I am pleased that the government of Israel understands that strengthening Jerusalem must be a top priority for the country. Our response to terrorism is to continue to strengthen and develop the city of Jerusalem,” said Barkat.
Deeming 2016 “a crucial struggle for the future of Jerusalem,” Barkat pledged that every resident of the struggling city will benefit from the large budget, which he said “will continue the trends of intense investments that began in recent years.”
“In 2016, we will continue the dramatic improvements that we have seen over the past seven years,” he said.
“The emphasis, as always, will be on education and investment in the youth, since they are our future.”
Barkat added that “massive investments will continue in residential neighborhoods, in improving the appearance of the city, in playgrounds, schools and kindergartens, in cultural institutions and dozens of events and festivals, roads, intersections and traffic, in municipal services and aid for the elderly and needy.”
Moreover, he said the money is intended to reduce “gaps between the various sectors in the city, and in all walks of life,” including Arab and Jewish residents of the capital.
“Jerusalem is growing and developing rapidly, and we will continue to make every effort to work to improve the quality of life for you, the residents,” he added.
Of the NIS 7 billion, Barkat said NIS 803 million will be invested in infrastructure and transportation; NIS 456m.
will go toward construction of public buildings, community centers, swimming pools and youth movement buildings; an additional NIS 128m. will be earmarked for education; NIS 20m. will go toward development; NIS 18.5m. toward culture, sports and leisure; and NIS 57m.
toward neighborhood development.
It remains unclear what the remainder of the budget will be spent on.