Tartu's annual budget to increase next year, though cuts also needed

Tartu Town Hall.
Tartu Town Hall. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While this year, Tartu City Council approved a budget of €274 million, next year's budget is set to increase to around €300 million. However, the city will also have to make a number of cuts.

Officially, the City of Tartu's budget for next year is due to be submitted to the council for discussion at the end of November. However, a 'blueprint' of the city's expected revenue and expenditure for 2024 has now been drawn up. According to Tartu Deputy Mayor, Meelis Leidt, next year's budget for the university city will be around €300 million. That's €26 million more than this year.

"When you compare the financial autonomy of local governments in Estonia to those in other European countries, we are in last place. Local authorities are able to decide on less than 20 percent of their own resources, which, taking into account next year's budget, means somewhere in the region of €45 million," explained Leidt.

The city's main areas of focus for next year are education and culture. After all, Tartu will be the European Capital of Culture in 2024 and, according to Leidt, the city will spend €4.4 million on that. When it comes to education, the money will be used for investments and payroll, Leidt added.

"The biggest investments in education are Karlova School (€5.7 million), Hellik Kindergarten (€5 million) and Tähtvere Kindergarten (€3.3 million). In addition to that, we will keep the salaries of kindergarten teachers and support specialists with master's degrees, at the same level as school teachers. And for us, this means that if the salaries of school teachers go up by 1 percent, there will be an additional cost of €300,000 from the city budget."

According to Leidt, borrowing will also be necessary in order to make further investments, such as building schools and kindergartens. This means the city's borrowing burden will increase next year.

"In order to keep the city running, we need to invest €30-40 million every year, and for that we need to borrow. Next year it will be around €40 million."

Next year, there are also plans to restore flight connections between Tartu and Helsinki, with the city contributing around €0.5 million. In addition to the costs outlined, the city will have to find €1.6 million in the new year to cover maintenance reforms, which, according to Leidt, will have to be financed from other sources.

"The minimum impact will be €1.6 million, but it could be €2.5 million, depending on the actual number of recipients, which has already tripled since the beginning of the year."

The biggest savings for Tartu next year will be related to urban management, where cuts of €1.2 million are to be made.

"The sums involved may not be very large when read out in isolation - maintenance work, on flowerbeds, roads and streets, for example. Next year, we will no longer be buying new Christmas decorations, we will use what we already have. However, we are able to cut these costs, though it has not been easy," said Leidt.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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