Sderot Mayor Stages Sit-In Over Budget Cuts

YERUSHALAYIM -
Mayor of Sderot, David Buskila, standing outside a protest tent he set up outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Mayor of Sderot, David Buskila, standing outside a protest tent he set up outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Sderot Mayor David Bouskila is staging an open-ended, one-man protest over a series of budget cuts which have crippled his city’s operations, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Bouskila has been sitting-in since last Wednesday in a makeshift canvas tent across the street from the Prime Minister’s Office in downtown Yerushalayim.

“I will stay until they solve the problem,” he said. “I hope they do it today or tomorrow.”

According to Bouskila, the Interior Ministry and Treasury have cut NIS 25 million from Sderot’s annual budget each year for the past four years, creating a fiscal crisis for the city.

The cuts came in 2009 after Operation Cast Lead, because, he says, “no more rockets were landing on us.”

However, government officials more than dispute the matter, saying the truth is actually the opposite.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach issued a statement denying funding had been cut from Sderot’s annual budget.

“Claims of the state’s budget cut to the municipality are not true — the opposite is true: Every year tens of millions of shekels were delivered to its municipality,” the statement read.

“In addition to that,” the statement continued, “last year, an extra NIS 10 million was provided as a bonus, and this year — in addition to NIS 44 million — the government provided an additional NIS 15m. as a loan.”

The Interior Ministry charged that Sderot defaulted on its commitment to a recovery plan drawn up by the government, and of expanding its budget deficit to NIS 110M.

Four days before Rosh Hashanah, an emergency meeting was held to solve the problem. But instead of agreeing to restore the cuts, Bouskila claimed the government demanded  the municipality scale down on its “special needs.”

“We want money for youth activities, sanitation in the town and lights on the roads — these are not ‘special needs,’ they’re basic needs,” Bouskila said. “We don’t feel like we should have to live differently than any other community in Israel.”

The Finance Ministry says they have another emergency plan for the city.

But Bouskila isn’t ready to pack up and go home on the strength of a verbal promise. He said he had not been informed of such a measure and will not leave until he has a formal agreement in hand.