Nothing's certain except...

Arnona. That infamous word.

arnstein house 298 88 (photo credit: courtesy of Arnstein family)
arnstein house 298 88
(photo credit: courtesy of Arnstein family)
Arnona. That infamous word. Translated as "municipal property taxes," it seems almost innocuous. But most people call it as it is. Arnona. The web of taxes that each municipality charges its residents according to criteria and regulations that almost no one seems to understand. According to Nathan Lavon, chairman of Ken L'zaken, a non-profit organization that advocates for senior citizens' rights, when the municipality handed out its arnona bills this year, numerous seniors complained. They were not receiving, they complained, the discounts to which they are entitled. Lavon believes that in most cases in Jerusalem, seniors do in fact receive the discounts to which they are entitled, but there is much confusion surrounding the topic. Arnona is calculated on a formula based on the size of the home and the neighborhood in which it is located. Until the introduction of the municipal rehabilitation program, reductions for the elderly, usually a flat 25 percent, were given automatically. After the program was put in place, senior citizens who believed they were entitled to a reduction had to personally appear at City Hall in Kikar Safra and stand in line, sometimes for hours, to prove their eligibility. "Many elderly citizens were so hurt or just too frail and tired to face it, and they just gave up," says Nir Barkat, head of the "Jerusalem Will Succeed" party in the city council. Barkat agreed to support Ken L'zaken in an advocacy struggle, and a few months ago, after a fearsome struggle, the organization managed to coerce the municipality to return the automatic discount to some of the senior citizens, even retroactively to cover the year 2005. And, Lavon says, the reductions for 2006 are in place and calculated appropriately. His organization is "more than satisfied." There is, however, one outstanding problem, he says, and most seniors remain unaware of it. By law, the reduction cannot be completely automatic for everyone. "According to the law and the National Insurance Institute's regulations, senior citizens' pensions are paid only to retired citizens who have stopped working at the age of 67 (for men) or 62 (for women). The municipal law states that only those persons who receive their senior citizens' pensions are entitled to get an [automatic] reduction in arnona. [Mayor Uri] Lupolianski can't do anything about it." So people who receive their old-age pensions from the National Insurance Institute should also receive an automatic discount. Those who do not, for whatever reason, will have to apply to the municipality. Lavon adds, "It seems proper to me that someone who is still capable of working and earning a salary should pay just like anyone else. For the poor elderly, we're always ready to give a fair fight."