Barkat announces 25% cut in Jerusalem’s 2011 budget

Mayor blames government for insufficient support of capital.

By JONAH MANDEL
February 3, 2011 05:54
3 minute read.
Nir Barkat

Nir Barkat 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Jerusalem’s welfare, education, culture, sports and urban improvement budgets are to be cut 25%, Mayor Nir Barkat announced on Wednesday, following reductions in the government’s fiscal support for the city that have yet to be resolved.

A statement from the municipality blamed the government for cold-shouldering the capital with insufficient funding, thus forcing it to turn the 2011 budget, which is being finalized, into a “lame budget.”

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“This isn’t a struggle over the funding of Jerusalem, rather the existence, standing and future of the city,” Barkat said in the statement. “The government is good at talking about Jerusalem, but in actions has forgotten it a long time ago.”

“It’s time to change the status of Jerusalem in the government’s priorities, before it’s too late,” he said.

The municipality noted that the government has recently cost the city some NIS 110 million through “budgetary edicts” such as the NIS 20m. now due the city’s employees as a result of an agreement between the Histadrut and the Finance Ministry, or the additional NIS 25m. it will cost the city to dispose of its waste after the government ordered the nearby Abu Dis dump closed.

On top of that, the government has dramatically diminished its support of the city in the past decade: In 2000 NIS 269 million were allocated to Jerusalem, the sum for 2011 stands at NIS 170m.

A municipal spokesman noted that the city, Israel’s largest, deals with challenges that result from the unique composition of its population, such as the losses the city endures from the arnona (municipal tax) breaks given to poor families, which rose the last year from NIS 500 million to NIS 550 million.

The announcement followed a hearing of the Knesset’s Finance Committee earlier that day, which discussed National Union MK Uri Ariel’s bill to give Jerusalem preferential status as top national priority area for economic development, which passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset last month.

While the bill did not pass in committee for its first reading, committee head MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) slammed the government for not treating its capital like any other cultured and normal state does.

“The government treats Jerusalem as if it were Kfar Yarka,” he said, referring to the small Druse village located between Acre and Karmiel.

Gafni called for an immediate allocation of NIS 100 million to the municipality’s budget.

“Jerusalem is the mirror of the State of Israel to the entire world,” he said. “Its mayor has to deal with difficulties no other mayor faces. These difficulties have diplomatic ramifications, too.”

Gafni also told Barkat he’d intervene to ensure the mayor has direct access to the Finance Ministry to resolve this issue.

At the Knesset discussion, Barkat noted that Jerusalem’s arnona rate is the highest in the nation, while the municipality’s expenditure per capita – NIS 4,187, is one of the lowest, with the average in the big cities standing at NIS 6,048. To reach that average, Barkat said, the city would need an additional NIS 1.4 billion.

Meanwhile, as a result of the ongoing cuts, the city would be cutting 25% of its budget this year, the mayor noted.

Barkat issued an appeal to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene on behalf of the city.

“It is in your hands,” he said. “Don’t let the city deteriorate.”

Barkat recently launched a campaign in his name and the municipality’s, warning Netanyahu in billboards across the city to “not lose the city” and “continue [its] growth.”


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