Anger over reduced cleanliness budget

Opposition councilors in Beersheba are furious that although the city's total budget is expected to grow by about six percent this year, the budget for environmental quality is expected to shrink, reports The councilors say that Mayor Rubik Danilovitch emphasized cleanliness and gardening in his election campaign last year, but despite this the cleanliness budget was being reduced, with the result that the city would remain as dirty as it is today. According to the report, the city's finances committee met recently to discuss the 2009 budget, which stands at NIS 932 million, 6% more than the NIS 879 million in 2008. The draft shows that salaries are set to rise from NIS 121 million to NIS 129 million, a rise attributed to legally required promotions and salary additions for long-serving employees, as well as to the preservation of retirement funds. The draft also shows that property taxes are expected to rise from NIS 437 million to NIS 460 million as a result of an update in tax rates and increased efforts to enforce collection. The report said the budget draft would soon come before the city council for discussion and approval, but even before this took place it was arousing the anger of opposition councilors. "It is strange and annoying that the budget for the department of environmental quality has been reduced... the city will continue to be dirty," councilor Yossi Shelly said. And councilor Zecharia Ohev-Shalom said the planned budget "continues to impose sentences and to take money from the public." A municipal spokesman said that Danilovitch's influence on the budget was small, as he took office only a few months ago, after the framework for the budget was already established. But the spokesman said that even though the budget for environmental quality was being reduced, there would be more efficient supervision of cleanliness in the city, and emphasis would be placed on making the system more efficient to provide better service to the public. The spokesman also said changes could well be made to the budget document before it was finalized.