Responding to the numerous complaints of storekeepers in central Tel Aviv, the municipality will set up a fund of NIS 5 million to compensate them for losses due to the construction of the city’s subway. With no budget to spare, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Chuldai has appealed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz for help in establishing the fund.
The money will go mostly to pay for municipal taxes (arnonah) for businesses that have lost many of their customers due to construction of the light rail. Currently, construction is centered on a portion of Yehuda Halevi Street in south Tel Aviv, as construction proceeds on one of the subway stations. Much of the street has been closed to traffic, with just a narrow passageway on a sidewalk allowing pedestrians to access the stores there – with most reporting as much as a 90-percent decline in customer traffic.
Construction is set to begin on other stations as well in the coming months, and the problem will be exacerbated in other areas of the city.
Storekeepers have asked the city to curtail collection of municipal taxes, but were told that the city was unable to do so because it would require changing zoning and other laws. The city is willing to do the next best thing, officials said – pay off the taxes from a special fund.
Now, all the city has to do is find the money to pay those taxes, said Chuldai. “I am painfully aware of the difficulties businesses are facing as a result of the work on the subway. Even though this is a national project, the Tel Aviv Municipality will not shirk its responsibility in providing whatever assistance it can during the long period of construction. We will do our best to help, and we hope the state and neighboring municipalities will contribute as well.”