Talks between the Reform Party and the Estonian Social Democratic Party (SDE) on a coalition to govern Tartu have progressed well since their start on Tuesday and the coalition agreement could be concluded already next week provided that constructive talks will continue also over the weekend, head of SDE's Tartu chapter Heljo Pikhof told Tartu Postimees.
One of the most important victories for SDE was an agreement to freeze the kindergarten place fee in Tartu at the current level of €81 per child per month also for 2021.
"Our wish was to freeze the fee also for 2022, but we can continue to work on that subject in the city government," Pikhof said.
The new coalition can only make changes to the budget for 2021, as the budget for the current year has already been adopted, whereas new elections are due in October next year.
At the same time, SDE had to yield on its demand that the place fee be unpegged from the minimum wage.
Mayor Urmas Klaas, a politician from the Reform Party, said unpegging the place fee from the minimum wage is not a very sustainable thing to do from the viewpoint of ensuring the quality of preschool education.
"We must continue to develop kindergartens, and in doing it raising the wages of kindergarten teachers is also important," Klaas said.
The mayor pointed out that as a result of the freezing of the kindergarten place fee, 545,000 euros less will flow into the city's budget next year.
Pikhof said the smaller inflow doesn't have to mean cuts in spending, as the impact could be offset through a review of incomes and expenditures.
Pikhof said that while the negotiations have not proceeded without disputes, compromises have been achieved on all the topics handled so far.
The council of Tartu will gather for an emergency meeting on February 13 to vote on a no-confidence motion against Deputy Mayor Monica Rand, one of the two deputy mayors representing the Center Party in the city government of the now-dissolved coalition.
The meeting of the council may be the last chaired by Center Party deputy Aadu Must, who is about to resign. Election of the new chair of the council is expected to be an agenda item of the council's meeting on February 20.
Editor: Helen Wright