• Germany's news in English

Cities tighten their belts after tax cuts

AFP · 19 Jan 2010, 07:28

Published: 19 Jan 2010 07:28 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

“I cannot even get a loan to buy a new fire engine,” frets Johannes Slawig, Wuppertal’s city treasurer.

Like his colleagues across Europe’s biggest economic power, Slawig has been scrambling to find budget savings in the face of a dire shortfall. Street lamps go off at 10:00 pm, indoor public pools are one degree cooler this winter to save on heating bills, and “dog trackers” are fanning out across nearby Aachen to pester owners about paying their “canine tax.”

Wuppertal, in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, plans to hike the dog tax and the price of burials, shutter a theatre housing a stage used by the late homegrown choreographer Pina Bausch as well as pools and elementary schools, and trim the social service budget. Hit hard by the economic crisis -Germany’s worst since the war - municipalities say they are also under siege from a tax-cutting drive in Berlin that has robbed this city of 350,000 people of millions in revenue.

The prospects are particularly gloomy for Wuppertal, which boomed in Germany’s post-war industrial heyday, and now suffers unemployment of more than 11 percent. Even a key source of pride, an elevated metro, was out of service for several hours on a recent frigid day while its streets were caked with muddy snow.

An austerity plan, unveiled at the end of 2009 by city hall “will have negative effects on everyone’s daily life,” Slawig admitted. He fears it will impinge on quality of life here in ways large and small, likely sparking a flight of the wealthiest, which will only exacerbate the revenues crunch.

“I already pay €2,500 per year for my daughter’s pre-school while it is free in Düsseldorf,” the more prosperous state capital, says Philipp Thelen, a 30-something father of two. “So if I move one day, I will go where it’s free and where there are still swimming pools that are open.”

Thelen is not only worried about his own belt-tightening. He runs a centre that offers language courses, child care and tutoring to mainly immigrant families in a particularly run-down neighbourhood of the city and worries its public funding, which accounts for three-quarters of its budget, may dry up.

He speaks of “sleepless nights” and wonders which members of his staff he can keep on salary and which services he can continue to offer. In cities such as Wuppertal, the decline of industry began a quarter-century ago but gathered pace with the financial and economic crisis over the last year, which Slawig blames for about half the public deficit here.

In other cash-strapped urban centres, the crisis has hit like a bombshell, stripping their coffers of millions in commercial taxes, their main source of revenue.

Story continues below…

Merkel’s government pushed through a controversial stimulus package of €8.5 billion in tax relief from January 1, and it plans much larger cuts in the coming years.

In Wuppertal, Slawig says up to €8 million in expected revenue will simply dry up this year, forcing cutbacks for its citizens.

“What the state gives away in the form of tax cuts it takes back by making people pay more for everything,” he said.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

13:20 January 19, 2010 by ECSNatale
or.. the government could give tax cuts where they actually might do some good instead of to special interest groups (like hotels) who simply pocketed the money and smiled on the way to the bank, congratulating themselves on how clever they were.
16:50 January 19, 2010 by michael4096
"The Romans kept their warm water baths flowing all the time no matter what the cost and look what happend to them"

Yeh, they dominated the world for 700 years and then left the world longing for the good times

(Its ok, America, only 620 years to go.)
22:39 January 21, 2010 by duckys
(Its ok, America, only 620 years to go.)

so i guess Germany is in for the long haul of 620 more years as they refuse to adapt to any type of American way of life....???

I think what is really hard to understand is that banks are not giving loans... prices for gas are high as ever... people are not being paid as they would be getting paid in the 90's but yet... we are worried about dog poop on the sidewalk....??? Come on now.... don't show your ignorance... as it is embarssing to the human race....

We should be more concerned about why the government is taking 52 percent of our paychecks while the rich are being taxed less. Questions such as...Where is all the money going so that the local cities cannot be buying firetrucks....? Why are politicans takiing joy rides in public transporation to Spain for holiday's and WHY has the FDP and CDU has basically lied to us about tax cuts!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why does the public transporation system in Denmark (Copenhagen...) ten times better, safer and cleaner than any station in Germany....

Instead of worrying about dog poop on the sidewalk.... Lets worry about something that would really be a benefit for every person instead of taking more money from a persons pocket....
Today's headlines
Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd