Or Akiva / Deputy Mayor Owes City NIS 600,000

Members of the Or Akiva Local Council, including the deputy mayor, owe the city more than NIS 1.5 million for arnona property taxes, water and sewage treatment, but the council does not enforce payment, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss reported.

According to the municipality's 2005 financial report, Or Akiva was owed NIS 28.8 million for property taxes and NIS 15.8 million for water. The report also notes that 49 municipality employees and pensioners owed NIS 1 million of that sum.

Deputy Mayor Benny Agmi owns two reception halls over 5,000 square meters, a 240-meter residential building, and another 786-meter warehouse. Agmi's debts reached NIS 587,000, but the municipality failed to demand payment. The report maintains that the municipality's outstanding property tax and water bills increased by NIS 5.5 million between 2003 and 2005.

In addition, in August 2003 the municipality hired a consulting and billing firm to collect property taxes and manage its billing departments, but never issued a tender for the position.

The municipality hired the firm before the city council approved it, and agreed to pay the firm a 20-percent commission for property tax received during the billing year, and 14 percent for previous years. Another firm requested a 9.8-percent commission to appraise property for tax purposes.

Or Akiva responded, "The municipality has been conducting intensive operations to extract debts owed by elected officials, and it reduced these debts by means of settlements. In the case of its employees and pensioners, the municipality also acts with determination to bill them for their debts. To date, total debts have been substantially reduced, and employee debt payment has improved."