Barkat: 2011 budget to improve lack of e. J'lem classrooms

Budget also includes funding for more cultural activities, improved tourism infrastructure, and expanded sport complexes.

Barkat 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Barkat 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat presented the preliminary 2011 municipal budget on Monday, highlighting a NIS 300 million allocation for planning and construction of new classrooms in the neglected east Jerusalem schools.
The budget, which the city council will discuss in the coming week, also included funding for more cultural activities, improved tourism infrastructure, and expanded sport complexes.
Barkat added that property taxes (arnona) would not be raised.
The total budget for 2011 is NIS 3.826 billion, an increase of NIS 191m. (5.25 percent) from 2010.
Other highlights include more than NIS 80m. for renovations to Teddy Stadium, and NIS 31m. for marketing tourism, up from just NIS 3m.
in 2009. The city’s sanitation department will receive an additional NIS 21m. to implement a new recycling program that separates garbage at the source, as well as improving the city’s overall cleanliness.
The city’s general education budget grew by NIS 89m. from 2010, after receiving NIS 33m.
from the Education Ministry for establishing kindergartens.
Within the additional funds, NIS 12.5m. will be earmarked for the haredi sector, and NIS 21m. will be directed toward the Arab sector.
Barkat made increasing funds to east Jerusalem a centerpiece of his presentation of the new budget. In addition to the NIS 300m. for new classrooms, NIS 2.8m. will go toward planning and zoning of east Jerusalem neighborhoods and NIS 23m.
toward infrastructure and roads. The neighborhoods where the mayor wants to focus his efforts include Arab e-Suwaha and Isawiya, among others.
Earlier this year, the High Court ruled that the Jerusalem municipality and the Education Ministry had five years to provide enough classroom space for all the students in east Jerusalem. Following the mayor’s announcement on Monday, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which filed the High Court petition in 2008, said it “welcomed” additional funds directed toward east Jerusalem classrooms.
“However, after many years of neglect from the municipality and the authorities, there is not enough budget allocated by the municipality of Jerusalem to bridge the gaps and to bring the living situation in east Jerusalem into the 21st century,” said ACRI attorney Keren Tzafrir.
The budget will be discussed by the Municipal Finance Committee in the coming week, and on Sunday, deliberations with the full City Council will start at 8 a.m. Such deliberations often last long into the night. The budget will then require final approval from the Municipal Finance Committee, the City Council and the Interior Ministry.
By law, a local council that has not adopted a budget by March 30 must hold new elections.
Barkat had declined to open the municipality budget debates until he received confirmation from the Prime Minister’s Office that the state would increase the “capital grant,” extra funding for Jerusalem that is not part of the standard state budget.
Jerusalem normally gets an extra grant from the government, but the amount is not fixed, so the city must appeal for the funds each year. The extra grant, also called the “Jerusalem Rule,” has fallen from NIS 269m. in 2000 to NIS 170m. in 2010.
Last week, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry agreed to increase the capital grant by NIS 40m., to NIS 210m., for each of the next two years. This is the first time since 2000 that the grant has crossed the NIS 200m. threshold.
Prior to the state’s decision, Barkat had announced that certain budgets would be cut by 25% after the government refused to provide extra funding for the capital. The mayor restored most of the cuts after receiving the capital grant.