Tallinn budgetary strategy set at €600 million for next four years

Tallinn skyline in the morning.
Tallinn skyline in the morning. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Tallinn City Government has unveiled its four-year budgetary strategy, covering the period 2021-2024 and totaling nearly €600 million, which includes several earlier projects which had been put on hold due to a lack of funding. Opposition councilors say that schools, kindergartens and also cycle lanes have been neglected, while city government bureaucracy will receive more than its fair share.

Tallinn's budget strategy for 2021-2024 includes several projects which have been under discussion for several years, though will also only come to fruition in the years ahead, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

For 2021, Tallinn plans to invest €165 million (compared with €149 million for 2020), of which €85 million comes from its investment; the city plans to borrow €70 million.

For 2022-2024 the figure will be €136-€155 million.

Over the four-year period, the city will invest €595 million, borrowing €175 million to implement the plan.

City revenue, which is forecast at €791 million this year, is expected to fall by €25 million next year and return to 2020's level in 2022. In 2024, the revenue is projected to reach €850 million.

Significant items are as follows:

  • Design and construction of a planned Tallinn Hospital is entered into all four budgetary years. The hospital would be a centralized facility; at present the capital is served by three main hospitals, in Mustamäe, on Paldiski mnt and Liivalaia, as well as other locations.
  • Public transport connection between Tartu mnt and Pärnu mnt, via Rävala pst (2021-2023).
  • Public transport connection between Lasnamäe and Pirita roads, via Mustakivi tee (2021-2023).
  • Repair work to Peterburi tee (2021-2023).
  • Reconstruction to roads between the harbor area and Kristiine, along Jõe, Pronksi, Liivalaia, Suur-Ameerika and Endla streets, as well as the stretch from the Suur-Ameerika/Luise junction to the so-called taxi park (Taksopark) intersection in Kristiine.
  • A long-awaited renovation of the Nõmme intersection has been postponed to 2024.
  • The tram route between the harbor area and Ülemiste will receive funds for renovation from 2022.
  • Construction of a light traffic road connecting Filtri with Kadriorg and Ülemiste.
  • Vana-Kalamaja to be reconstructed 2021-2022.
  • Connection of Lasnamäe tee to the city center will receive funding in 2021 and 2023.
  • Subterranean pedestrian tunnels below the rail line at Endla street and Paldiski mnt and between the Pääsküla rail stop and Kotka and Tehnika roads (2023).
  • Subterranean pedestrian tunnels below the rail line at Endla street and Paldiski mnt and between the Pääsküla rail stop and Kotka and Tehnika roads (2023).

There are also plans to allocate money to the long-discussed Tallinn ring railway project, the city says, which is planned for either north of Lake Ülemiste – within city limits – or to the south of it, without. This line is intended to divert potentially dangerous rail cargoes outside the city as well as to potentially carry passengers.

One new school planned

Only one new school is planned, at Pikaliiva street in Haabersti, in the west of Tallinn.

Additionally, the Sõle street sports center will be converted into a school building, according to the plans.

A new building is planned at the Kullo hobby center (2021-2024), along with a children's creative house in the residential district of Mustamäe (2021-2022).

The Russian Cultural Center (Vene Kultuurikeskus) is due for renovation next year, with the Tammsaare and Vilde museums in 2022, and the City Theater (Tallinna Linnateater) in the old town, over the period 2021-2023.

Tallinn Zoo

Tallinn Zoo in Haabersti will see a "tiger valley" development in 2021, as well as other developments including an antelope house and a lion exhibit section 2022-2023.

Squares, parks, memorials and sports complexes

Reconstruction of Tallinn city center's Teatri väljak (Theater square) is planned for 2022, with Tondiraba park, the largest public park in the land, to be reworked to the tune of €6 million. The Maarjamäe memorial will also see work, as will the 5,000-seat Kadriorg Stadium, home of football teams Tallinna JK Legion and JK Tallinna Kalev.

An outdoor pool is planned for the Pirita river, and the Pirita Velodrome will see new facilities, and a new sports complex is planned for Pae street in Lasnamäe.

Opposition city councilors: More kindergarten and school places still needed

Center is the sole party in office at city government level, with Reform, Isamaa, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) in opposition. The opposition councilors can propose amendments to the budget strategy, as is the case with the strategy, as well as the actual annual budget, at the national level at the Riigikogu.

Leaders of some of these party groupings said that while most significant areas are budgeted for, kindergarten and school places, as well as bicycle lanes, are overlooked.

Isamaa group chair Mart Luik said that: "In addition to the renovation plan for kindergartens and schools, the city must invest in the creation of new kindergarten and school places as of now. There is no scope for waiting for that."

Luik also said that the city has postponed a lot of investments to late on in the period.

"It seems that the city government has in its strategy pushed all future investments, those which are not completely certain, into the last year of the budgetary period, i.e. 2024, on the principle that we will see what happens in the future," Luik said, noting that growing populations in residential districts on the outskirts of town, such as Tiskre and Kakumäe, have made this even more pressing, particularly as many of the new arrivals are families with children.

Reform's city council chair Kristen Michal says that the kindergarten situation is particularly serious. 103 out of the total 124 need work done by 2030 to meet requirements, which would mean 9-10 being attended to per year between now and then. However, for instance in 2021 only four are in the plans, he said.

Michal said: "This is neither a normal nor an advanced pace, but based the knowledge that the area is not a priority."

Chair of SDE's group, Rainer Vakra, said that making the city safer and more comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists has also been neglected in the strategy.

Vakra said: "The cycling strategy adopted two years ago has so far only constituted a piece of paper. We at SDE are making clear amendments to the strategy which would see the construction of a network of cycle lanes."

Strategies to date have simply been nice-sounding phrases, Vakra added:  "Be it the cycling strategy or the 'Kindergarten for every child' policy."

Vakra: cut down on bureaucratic facilities

Rainer Vakra also said that there were too many city council staff, with overly-opulent facilities, which had come at the expense of education.

"I am not entirely sure whether it is necessary to invest so heavily in new government buildings belonging to the city government itself. In fact, the number of 1,500 employees in Tallinn is excessive," he said.

"Similarly, I would postpone the construction of the administrative building for the Haabersti district government," he added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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