J’lem restores budget; state forks over additional NIS 210m

Jerusalem Municipality restores almost all cuts to its welfare, education, culture, sports and urban improvement budgets.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
February 17, 2011 04:38
2 minute read.
Nir Barkat

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

The Jerusalem Municipality restored almost all of last week’s cuts to its welfare, education, culture, sports and urban improvement budgets, following a decision by the prime minister and the Finance Ministry to give the city an extra financial grant, the municipality announced on Wednesday.

Mayor Nir Barkat had announced that the budgets would be cut by 25 percent after the government refused to provide extra funding for the capital.

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Jerusalem normally gets an extra grant from the government, but the amount is not fixed, so the city is forced to plead for the funds each year.

The extra grant, also called the “Jerusalem Rule,” has fallen from NIS 269 million in 2000 to NIS 170m. in 2010.

At the same time, the city says it has been saddled with government-induced extra costs such as raising the wages of municipal workers, and additional costs incurred after the closing of the Abu Dis waste facility.

The grant will increase by NIS 40m., to NIS 210m. for each of the next two years. This is the first time since 2000 that the grant has crossed the NIS 200m. threshold.

This means the municipality’s budget will be cut by an estimated NIS 13m. instead of the NIS 110m. announced last week.

“I thank the prime minister and I am sure that he will continue to meet his obligations to the city and its residents,” Barkat said, adding that he had confidence that the state’s leaders would continue to promote the capital and ensure it had adequate resources.

Lawmakers from across the spectrum, led by National Union MK Uri Ariel, rushed to the city’s aid last month, when Barkat first appealed to the Finance Ministry for an increase in funding. Two separate emergency meetings were attended by more than 40 legislators.

“Jerusalem is the mirror of the State of Israel to the entire world,” said Finance Committee head MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) at an emergency meeting held last week. “Its mayor has to deal with difficulties no other mayor faces. These difficulties have diplomatic ramifications, too.”

At the same Knesset discussion, Barkat noted that Jerusalem’s property tax rate (arnona) rate is the highest in the nation, while the municipality’s annual 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 figure, the city would need an additional NIS 1.4 billion a year, Barkat said.

Jonah Mandel contributed to this report.


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