Local authorities threaten to disrupt school services

Municipalities in financial trouble; need more funding for school buses and more.

Shlomo Buhbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULA), and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar held an emergency conference call on Tuesday in an attempt to avoid disruptions to the start of the school year next week.
The move came after the ULA threatened to reduce administrative and municipal services such as school buses next Wednesday unless the ministry transferred funds to pay for them.
According to a ULA spokeswoman, after the conversation, Sa’ar instructed his ministry’s director-general, Shimshon Shoshani, to meet with ULA representatives on Wednesday to find a solution.
The ULA claims the state failed to honor agreements made with the local authorities to transfer funds, and as a result the municipalities were in financial trouble. It claims the government owes local authorities roughly half a billion shekels, and that without the funds they simply cannot afford to pay city workers and will have to cut back on things like school maintenance staff, transportation services, secretarial services and security guards.
“The ULA is no longer able to subsidize the state. On one hand there are unprecedented budget cuts and on the other hand we are subsidizing education and welfare programs reaching into millions of shekels. This situation leaves us no choice but to provide only the minimum services we can fund,” said Buhbut.
“We hope we won’t have to reach a point that will harm the normal functioning of the schools and hope that the education minister will meet with ULA heads, and together we will find a solution for the sake of the children’s future,” he continued.
“I call on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene and avert a crisis.”
Eti Binyamin, chairwoman of the National Parents Leadership Association, threatened that her group would turn to the courts to charge the ULA with contempt if it disrupted municipal education services.
“Last year, when Buhbut threatened to disrupt the education system in the same way, we went to court and they issued an injunction forbidding the use of children as tools for promoting their causes,” said Binyamin. “As far as we are concerned, this is the same situation, and we won’t allow our children to be held hostage.”
In response, Buhbut said there were no plans for a strike in the education system and that the only disruptions would be to auxiliary services.
A similar standoff took place last September when Buhbut called for municipal strikes nationwide, but they were averted after it became clear that many municipalities, particularly those of major cities, had chosen not to take part.