Corridors of Power: Budgeting for success

NIS 3.353 billion is Jerusalem's budget. Tel Aviv, which has half as many residents, has about the same.

city hall jerusalem 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
city hall jerusalem 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Success is always surrounded by lots of relatives, whereas failure is usually an orphan. That goes for economic issues as well, such as the new municipality budget which, though far from representing the pledges and promises of the new mayor, is nevertheless considered by both the current head of the Finance Committee and his predecessor to be a "successful budget." "We've done a professional job and prepared a good budget for the new administration," announced city councillor Eli Simhayoff, former head of the committee. "We've done a tremendous job - to make out of the budget that was almost ready and reflected the previous administration's priorities an acceptable tool for the new mayor and his coalition. In the current situation, I think it is a real success," said deputy mayor and new committee head David Hadari of Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home). Since we're talking money, let's start with numbers. NIS 3.353 billion is the total sum available for the (almost) 800,000 residents of the city. Tel Aviv, which has half as many residents, has about the same budget. So where will this additional NIS 180 million go? NIS 10m. will go to the culture department (which jumped overnight to NIS 20m. - better, but still far behind the NIS 105m. of Tel Aviv's culture department); NIS 50m. to welfare; NIS 50m. to education; NIS 40m. to sanitation; about NIS 1m. to the youth movements; NIS 700,000 to the sports associations; and the rest spread among environment, parking, youth at-risk programs, etc. Oh yes, and about NIS 1m. for refurbishing the offices of the new mayor and his staff. And one more thing: Hadari, who represents the religious Zionist sector, managed to add, for a few hundred thousand shekels, a new category to the youth at-risk program: religious Zionist youth at risk, in addition to the already existing Arab and haredi youth at risk. Where is all the extra money coming from? NIS 105m. will come from our arnona (property tax), including an increase of 4.7%; NIS 50m. will come from the government through its ministries, such as welfare and social services and education; and NIS 30m. is the expected income from parking fines. For Hadari, there's still a lot to do. "Jerusalem suffers from being the capital of Israel and the largest city," he says. He goes on to explain that "Other cities do not host government ministries, in addition to so many organizations, such as NGOs and cultural institutions, not to mention the large number of religious institutions which are, by law, exempt from arnona. Regarding the religious institutions, we understand that churches and mosques, as well as synagogues, should not pay arnona. But what happens when a church has a guest house or reception hall? We believe they should pay taxes for them, but the Foreign Ministry warns us not to create a diplomatic incident. Okay, we won't cause trouble, but we expect the government to pay the difference - after all, is it the residents of Jerusalem's fault? Why should they have to bear the burden of these issues?" And by the way, we're talking about a lot of money - some NIS 220m. for the religious institutions, and about twice that amount from ministries that don't bother to pay their municipal taxes. But this administration is ready to save money. For example, the plans to build a fountain at Kikar Safra (estimated cost, NIS 240,000) have been canceled for now. Not a bad idea, considering the lack of rain.