Anger over property tax rise

Herzliya is hiking its property taxes for 2009, a move which one city councilor calls 'a scandal like no other.'

Despite the current economic crisis, the city of Herzliya is planning to raise its property tax rates by 4.5 percent in 2009, reports But the city says that despite the rise, residents will actually receive lower property tax bills in January than they did in November. According to the report, the city's Financial Committee last week decided to increase the property tax (arnona) by 4.5% in 2009, and a city council meeting is expected to approve the decision at the end of this month. Councilor Yaron Olami was strongly critical of the decision, saying it was "a scandal like no other." He said that in view of the current recession and the belt-tightening that was being required of all citizens, the city should be reducing property taxes, or at least leaving them as they were. "A rise so dramatic and so large in the property tax rates is annoying and even rude, a sentence that the public cannot abide - sometimes a tax order should be attached to logic, and not just to the dry law," Olami said. But a municipal spokesman said the city had "no choice" but to raise the tax to meet the requirements of the Interior Ministry. The spokesman said the government was "behaving like an ostrich" and ignoring the difficult financial situation and retrenchments facing many people, and was insisting that cities perform in a "heartless" way that was harmful to citizens. But he said that while the city would have to increase the tax to meet the government's demands, in fact the January property tax bill would be more than 1 percent lower than the November bill because of the drop in the consumer price index in the past few months. The spokesman said that while the November bill had been adjusted for the inflation of the preceding two months, there had only been deflation since then, so that "despite the update in the tax rate, in effect the cost will not rise but will even fall." Herzliya Mayor Yael German added that it was "a pity" that Olami was once again hurrying to the media with "populist and mistaken declarations, before even checking his facts."