Government Tells Tel Aviv to Shape Up

The Interior Ministry told the Tel Aviv Municipality that it had better fire several hundred city employes and raise local taxes by 10 percent if it expects to be bailed out of its current financial difficulties.

The austerity-or-else scenario was outlined by the Ministry’s Director General, Haim Kubersky, at a press conference here yesterday. Kubersky was responding to charges by Mayor Shlomo Lahat that the government’s failure to allocate funds was responsible for the 11-day strike by city workers to protest the non-payment of their November salaries.

The strike ended Saturday night after commercial banks agreed to lend the City Council an additional 2 billion Shekels (about $3.3 million) so that it could meet its payroll.

SAYS MUNICIPALITY MUST MAKE SACRIFICES

Kubersky insisted that the city government must make sacrifices in the interests of an economic recovery plan. Lahat said elements of the plan proposed by the government are “unreasonable and impossible.” But according to the Interior Ministry, which oversees local governments, cutbacks in expenditures are a pre-requisite for further government assistance.

Kubersky explained, however, that the city will not receive direct financial help from the State. Instead, the government will encourage local banks to loan Tel Aviv more money, which the city will have to pay off from its own reasources.

The government official contended that Tel Aviv’s financial problems were of its own making. He accused the municipality of spending money on non-essential projects such as development of its Haaretz Museum and $1 million for an art school that will serve only 200 pupils.

Lahat had complained that the city was forced to spend large sums providing services for -out-of-town visitors who do not pay local taxes. Kubersky replied that Tel Aviv’s budget was almost twice that of Jerusalem which has more residents in its municpal area. Because of the outsized budget, the government cannot take into account the commutors who stream into Tel Aviv everyday, Kubersky said.

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