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Budget cut means Nicosia will have to tighten belt
NICOSIA municipality will get €400,000 less from the government than expected in 2013, which may overthrow plans for a balanced budget, Nicosia mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said yesterday.
The state and parliament had already reduced Nicosia municipality’s budget by €4.0 million, but the budget was further reduced by €400,000 for 2013, Yiorkadjis said during a news conference.
As it stands, the budget allows for a surplus of €2,360, the difference between the (originally) expected income of €32,159,981 and the anticipated expenses of €32,157,621. Last year closed with an estimated deficit of €3.3 million.
“The budget serves the need to render the municipality viable at a time when the government is unable to support local government,” Yiorkadjis said.
Ongoing and necessary works have priority, including the renovation of Eleftheria square that is expected to be completed in early 2015. The European regional development fund is funding 85 per cent of the project. The budget has grown from €20 million – some €13 million for the square and €7.0 million for underground parking – to over €25 million, Yiorkadjis said. He blamed the VAT hike for the increase as well as delays caused by the antiquities department that resulted in a sloppy plan with ill thought out aspects.
Other streamlined works to regenerate the areas of Kaimakli and Tachtakala within the city walls, the old town and Paphos Gate will either continue or else start this year, Yiorkadjis said.
He added that the municipality has obtained permission from town planning to undertake the regeneration of declining Makarios avenue, Stasikratous street and Onasagorou street by creating commercial centres.
It is not just the crisis and the expensive rents that has caused a decline in Makarios avenue, he said. “If you create three commercial nuclei you will break up the clientele. It’s natural,” Yiorkadjis said.
The municipality will also try to secure EU funding to build anti-flood infrastructure including in the Sopaz area, he said. Floods in the Sopaz area last year swept away cars, some parked but others with people in them who had to be rescued.
Meanwhile, some 50 people are expected to retire this year as part of a scheme to reduce staff numbers that resulted in the voluntary retirement of 35 employees last year, and will bring staff numbers down to 450 by the end of the year, Yiorkadjis said.
Rubbish fees will go up by €19 per household to keep up with expenses. The government plans to set up two new waste processing plants in Nicosia and Limassol to avoid EU fines from failing to clean up its landfill sites. Yiorkadjis said this would at least double rubbish collection fees, bringing them up to €250 - €300 a year unless they obtained a budget to update their system so they could charge people on the weight of their rubbish.
This year, as with last, the priority remains ensuring Nicosia “functions smoothly,” Yiorkadjis said.