City Halls Boycott New School Year

When the school year begins next week, local authorities will not be providing any municipal services, local government leaders decided at an emergency meeting yesterday.

The municipalities are protesting reduced Education Ministry budgets for local authorities, which usually provide local schools with busing, janitorial services, secretaries, security guards and kindergarten teaching assistants.

Special education institutions will still be receiving these services.

Local government representatives said they plan to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert next week to discuss the conflict over Education Ministry funding for local governments.

"If the state wants to start the year without us, be our guest. There is a limit to the cynicism and disrespect for residents," said Union of Local Authorities chair Adi Eldar.

The state has cut NIS 85 million in funding.

However, local government representatives say the cut is actually NIS 280 million, particularly once funds are rebudgeted for the New Horizon elementary school reform.

Speakers at yesterday's conference slammed the government, but did not directly criticize Education Minister Yuli Tamir.

"This means every mayor is writing a check with residents' tax money and giving it to the state. Instead of providing services to citizens, the government takes their money," Eldar said.

Haifa mayor Yona Yahav said, "We will no longer allow city coffers to be wrung dry. Behind every shekel stands a town resident who worked hard for that money.

"He already paid income tax and every tax on the books, and he cannot also underwrite the 'Free Education Law' the state is supposed to finance," Yahav said.