Lääneranna Municipality Council in Pärnu County has decided to close four public libraries by this May. During its next meeting in March, the council is also set to discuss plans to reduce the municipality's school network in an effort to cut down on costs.
Lääneranna Municipality is looking for ways to make up for a budget shortfall of almost €300,000. The decision made by the municipality council on Thursday to close public libraries in the villages of Saulepi, Metsküla, Kirbla and Tuudi is expected to save €56,000 a year.
Lääneranna Municipal Mayor Ingvar Saare (Isamaa) said, that, when it comes to the municipality's budget, simply breaking even is not enough, as there also has to be capacity left over for investments.
"The problem is, that we have quite a lot of real estate on our hands, and a low number of people using the services, so as a result, we have had to make these decisions here. We just need to review what constitutes a sensible management model. This applies to all areas of the municipality, right down to the educational network," Saare said.
A suggestion has been put forward to the municipality, that the libraries in Saulepi, Metsküla and Kirbla could be taken over by the local community. However, how exactly that might happen remains a matter for discussion.
Recently, there has also been talk of closing certain grades at schools in the municipality, as well as the complete closure of both Metsküla Elementary School and Lõpe Basic School. However, Saare said, that so far nothing has been decided.
Pille Kaisel, head teacher of Metsküla Elementary School, said, that the school was very important to the community and a prerequisite for the development of the local area.
"This school year we have 21 children, next year we will have 27, then 32 and then 34. After that there will be over 30 for quite a while. This is not based on figures I've just pulled out of thin air, but on the applications, which parents have already submitted (to the school)," Kaisel said.
According to Läänerama Council opposition member Eeva Helme (EKRE), when making cuts, all other options should be considered, but certainly not school or grade closures.
"The Lihula youth center line in the municipality's budget comes to €85,680. On the other hand, the Metsküla school, which provides education (for children) up to grade six, will receive €54,917 from the municipality," said Helme.
"In no way do I think that (the youth center) isn't important. Young people need to be engaged during their free time. However, if I have the choice for my children to receive compulsory basic education close to home, then I think that is the choice that should be made," Helme said.
The next reading of the Lääneranna Municipality budget will take place in March.
Editor: Michael Cole