Netanya trims budget but not council fittings

The council will spend NIS 350,000 on upgrading its meeting hall.

The city of Netanya is planning to trim its budget by NIS 50 million in 2009, and Mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikar is considering reducing her own salary and those of her deputy mayors, reports But that has not stopped the council from raising eyebrows by spending NIS 350,000 on fitting out its meeting chamber with the newest and latest gadgets and accessories. According to the report, residents and some former councilors have been surprised by the council's spending NIS 350,000 on upgrading its meeting hall recently, especially when Fierberg-Ikar has already forecast a difficult year ahead. The renovations have seen the room acquire 35 new computers - one for each councilor - complete with a special voting program, and two large plasma screens that enable the results of votes to be displayed overhead. The room has also been outfitted with a spacious new press and guest seating area, and two projectors to enable presentations to take place. The funding came from the council's extraordinary budget for 2008. "It is jarring to the eye to see hundreds of thousands of shekels being spent in the current situation, especially when this goes against every statement by the city and by the mayor herself that 2009 will be a difficult year," one former councilor said. A municipal spokesman responded that the council room had not been comfortable for councilors, the media or the public, and the renovations had aimed to provide "maximum comfort" to enable participants at meetings to carry out their work properly. He said the city was planning to cut NIS 50m. from the budget in 2009. Fierberg-Ikar said that in response to the current economic crisis, the city would not hire any new employees in the next three months, and that the salaries of existing employees would be frozen for this period.