Smaller municipalities to be merged with larger local governments in the course of the recent administrative form must now learn to cope with larger local government rules. For some municipalities, this means the loss of familiar social benefits, but also increases in the cost of services, such as kindergarten spots.
Currently, the parents of kindergarteners at Ilmatsalu Kindergarten in Tähtvere Municipality pay €30 per month for their children's kindergarten spots. As Tähtvere became a part of the city of Tartu in the course of the nationwide administrative reform, however, kindergarten fees there must be harmonized with the rate of kindergarten fees in the city, which means nearly doubling in size. As ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Monday night, this increase will not come overnight; the fees will increase at a rate of approximately €10 per year in order to reach Tartu rates in four years.
According to Ilmatsalu Kindergarten director Inga Väikene, parents there have gotten used to the idea and there has been no evidence of panic among them.
"Rural kindergartens are a bit dofferent," Väikene said. "If we want our salaries to increase like those in the city of Tartu, then we cannot simply take bonuses."
But kindergartens aren't the only ones to be affected by the administrative reform. Tähtvere Municipality paid each student to graduate basic school a graduation grant of €40; in Tartu, however, only top high school graduates receive such grants. Jubilee and Christmas package support likewise does not exist in the city.
Tartu City Secretary Jüri Mölder said that, one way or another, legally, they were faced with two options. "Either we fully implement such a support in the city of Tartu as well, or we lose it for the former residents of Tähtver Municipality, and that the city of Tartu generally continue focusing on needs-based support and avoid such auxiliary supports," he said.
Residents lose some, win some
According to Mölder, however, residents of the former Tähtvere Municipality will see net gains as a result of the merger, as they will qualify for new benefits that previously extended only to Tartu city residents.
"While our childbirth allowance was previously €200, and €300 beginning with the second child, it is already over €500 in the city," noted Tartu City Council member and former Tähtvere Municipality mayor Rein Kokk. "And so young families benefit in this regard, and Ibelieve that the payment of childbirth allowances is a joyful message of sorts."
Municipal merger consultant Rivo Noorkõiv said in a statement that in many smaller municipalities, the payment of various kinds of support was popular, while larger local governments focused primarily on the development of services.
He noted that while many different supports offered were not income level-dependent, support will become increasingly needs-based going forward.
"Now the time has come for new municipal councils to apply these support rates and services," Noorkõiv said, adding that he recommends large local governments to apply support in different ways.
Editor: Aili Vahtla