A committee established by the Interior Ministry has recommended merging the municipalities of Tel Aviv and Bat Yam within the next two years.
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The committee, which was established two years ago by then-Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, submitted its recommendations to Interior Minister Arye Deri yesterday. Dery is expected to confer with the mayors of the two cities before making his decision.
The brief of the committee, which was headed by former Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin, was to invesigate the distribution of revenues among the cities in the metropolitan Tel Aviv area following complaints from Bat Yam about unfair distribution.
Four of the committee’s five members agreed that only a merger with Tel Aviv could solve the dire financial straits of the Bat Yam municipality. The fifth member thought Bat Yam’s budget could be balanced by rezoning or by sharing revenues with the city of Holon.
Tel Aviv is expected to support the merger, but Bat Yam opposes it vehemently, preferring a solution solution based on the redistribution of funds among the cities in the area. The committee predicated its merger recommendation on the establishment of a government authority that would prepare the groundwork.
In the view of the committee, the merger should occur as soon as possible, preferably before the next municipal elections in November 2018. It stressed the importance of getting the Tel Aviv city council to approve the merger, a decision that would be binding on future mayors.
It recommended a number of interim measures to ease Bat Yam’s financial crisis, including annual cash injections from the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality to Bat Yam, amounting to 30 million shekels ($7.8 million), a government grant amounting to the same figure and cost-cutting measures in Bat Yam which would save 20 million shekels. All these steps should be part of a package deal, it said.
The committee member who disagreed, senior Treasury official and architect Doron Druckman, believed that Bat Yam’s budget could be balanced by supervision and monitoring of its budgetary spending, using authority granted to the Interior Minister by law, as well as by creating new sources of revenue in the city.
The means of achieving that would be the rezoning of commercial Bat Yam land that is currently under Holon’s jurisdiction or redistribution of the revenues raised by Holon from the use of the labd. Druckman believes that these areas have revenue-generating potential that would create the financial basis needed for Bat Yam’s stability.
Tel Aviv’s municipality stated that it hadn’t seen the recommendations yet and would respond after they are received. “The city believes there are too many local authorities in the metropolitan area and that it would be better to unite them in order to provide better services to residents.” the statement said.
“Tel Aviv is willing to unite with Bat Yam, but partial solutions involving transfer of funds are unacceptable since they don’t address root issues.”
Bat Yam’s city hall said that “the report’s 130 pages present disorganized recommendations which are impossible to implement. They don’t provide short-term solutions or address basic long-term problems. We won’t agree to any unilateral steps or to foot-dragging and meaningless declarations. We are confident that the ministers of interior and finance will do everything they can to ensure immediate justice for the residents of Bat Yam.”