Tallinn reinstates kindergarten fees ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Kindergarten.
Kindergarten. Source: ERR

After being suspended by Tallinn City Council in late March for the duration of the emergency situation, kindergarten fees will be reinstated in Tallinn as of June 1.

With a Tallinn City Council decision, beginning March 16, parents in the capital city were exempt from the obligation to pay kindergarten fees. The city also supported parents of children attending private childcare institutions to the extent of €71 per month; the same amount of support was also paid out to parents, guardians or foster carers.

The right to free public transport on Tallinn's buses, trams and trolleys was also expanded temporarily to include nonresidents.

At Thursday's sitting, however, the city council approved the city government's proposal to repeal these benefits beginning June 1.

Tallinn also published figures regarding how much these temporary measures cost the city. Temporarily suspending kindergarten fees cost the city €3.8 million, while €147,000 in support was paid out to parents whose children attend private childcare institutions. According to projections, another €78,000 will have been paid out to parents, guardians or foster carers.

It was noted in the city government's proposal that the implementation of these measures was justified during the emergency situation, but now, when the city's revenues are also being reduced due to the economic crisis, it is justified to repeal these same measures.

Tallinn city government announced on Thursday that the city is working out additional benefits for families with children attending kindergarten, with a particular aim to provide assistance to families with children with special education needs (SENs), families with several children as well as families who are facing financial difficulties.

"We want to create a package which is well thought out in terms of the future, not just based on today," Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) said. "We also need a clear understanding of what the city's capacity is. The city has been able to establish financial stability as well as reserves, but in the past two months, the general situation in both the city, the country and worldwide has changed, and decisions must be considered from a future perspective. Sometime in the next two weeks, we will introduce specific proposals for supporting families of children attending kindergarten."

A total of 21,349 children are on the rolls of Tallinn's municipal kindergartens, some 65 percent of whom attend kindergarten under normal circumstances. From March 16-20, a total of 8,359 children attended kindergarten in the capital city; from March 23-27, 6,333 children attended; from March 30-April 3, 6,000; from April 6-9, 5,887; from April 13-17, 9,008, from April 20-24, 10,762; from April 27-30, 11,654; from may 4-6, 13,067  children attended kindergarten.

Opposition not satisfied with fee reinstatement

According to Reform Party group chairman Kristen Michal, it is wrong and bad for Kõlvart to reinstate kindergarten fees at a time when difficult times are still ahead in the economy.

According to Michal, suspending kindergarten fees was the right choice by the city council, translating to €854 in savings per year to families with one child in kindergarten, and €1708 in savings for families with two children in kindergarten.

"Reinstating kindergarten fees, especially now, as the economic crisis and related hardships still yet lay ahead for many families, is a poorly-timed step," he said. "The city government should not be sticking its hands in the pockets of parents during difficult times; rather, it should review its own expenditures."

Michal said that abolishing kindergarten fees in 2020 would cost approximately €11 million in 2020. Beginning next year, losing kindergarten fees would cost the city approximately €18 million per year. The opposition Reform Party believes that sources of funding for this gap could be found in cutting the city's propaganda expenses, updating bad contracts, reducing city officials' labor costs and restructuring city agencies.

The city council's Social Democrats (SDE) had a similar message.

"Kindergarten fees in the capital city are set at €71.25 per child per month," SDE group chairman Rainer Vakra said. "If there are two kindergarten-age children in one family, the total is €142.50 per month and €1,710 per year. In April we exempted Tallinn parents from fees. Now, as the economic crisis deepens, the city government wants to start demanding this of parents again."

At Thursday's vote, the city council did not support a proposal by the Reform Party according to which benefits introduced in March would have remained in place beyond May 31.

Paper tickets still not to be sold on public transport

While nonresidents no longer have the right to free public transport in Tallinn beginning June 1, paper tickets will continue to not be sold in city buses, trams and trolleys through August 31.

Beginning June 1, ticket checks and the obligation to validate tickets or the right to free transport will be reinstated in the capital city.

Commenting on the decision, Kõlvart said that despite the fact that the epidemiological situation is moving in a positive direction, they must nonetheless continue taking into consideration the fact that the coronavirus has not disappeared and that the less contact, the better.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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