Several cities and local authorities are threatening to prevent the opening of the school year in September, citing planned cuts to the education budget. The forum of 15 independent cities - which include Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba, but not Jerusalem - as well as the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI) decided on the move Monday night, adding that they would not implement the New Horizon reform plan and would cut professional ties with the Education Ministry if the planned cuts were not withdrawn. The local authorities said the ministry planned to cut NIS 280 million from the education budget over the next two years, including additional funds set aside for the reform plan. In response, the Education Ministry said it was cutting only NIS 85m. from the 2008 budget - a reduction from the NIS 177m. cut that was originally planned - and that the cuts to the 2009 budget had yet to be decided. It added that the funds for the New Horizon plan would not be cut at all. Regarding the 2008 budget, the ministry said the cuts would be differential, with a one-percent cut for smaller authorities and a 10% cut for wealthier authorities. Ministry director-general Shlomit Amichai called on the local authorities to begin the school year on time.