On Wednesday, 31 January, Riga City Council deputies approved the capital city's budget for 2024, with ambitious investments in education, urban projects and transport infrastructure, more social support, improved internal security and more affordable housing.
Rising expenditure and competition in the labour market require action by the City Council to ensure access to high quality services for the residents of Riga. While the pressure on utility payments has decreased, changes in consumer prices and the cost of services, as well as the persistently high costs of loan servicing, are forcing the municipality to redirect expenses towards the affordability of services rather than the development and expansion of new services.
"The capital city's finances are stable and revenues are increasing, but we live in uncertain times, so we have planned this year's budget to be realistic and fiscally responsible. Overall, the budget is balanced in a way that it is beneficial to the residents of the city. We have approved an investment budget for Riga for 2024, and it will be an investment in both people and infrastructure. The biggest part of the city's budget – EUR 545 million – is dedicated to education, and this is the biggest long-term investment in our people. As for investment in physical infrastructure, we have the largest ever city investment programme, almost EUR 100 million more than last year. The amount of EU funds attracted to Riga this year is expected to be similar to last year – over EUR 80 million," said Vilnis Ķirsis, Riga City Council President.
Riga City Council has planned revenues of EUR 1 billion 354 million in this year's budget, which is EUR 162 million more than was planned last year. The revenue increase is mainly due to a projected increase of EUR 75 million of personal income tax revenue, based on the macroeconomic forecasts of the Ministry of Finance. The municipal budget also receives an increase in revenue from the state budget, mainly due to a EUR 47 million increase in teachers' salaries and EUR 23.5 million in support for the construction of the Kundziņsala overpass.
Total budget expenditure is planned to reach EUR 1 billion 545 million, which is EUR 141 million more than last year. As inflation has stabilised, the spending dynamics have slowed down. Expenditure is also negatively affected by the uneven development of the European Union planning documents and the corresponding implementation schedules of these projects, as well as by the amount of financial resources available to the municipality. Riga's contribution to the municipal equalization fund will increase by EUR 8 million, or 6%, reaching EUR 133 million in 2024.
The increase in the minimum wage to EUR 700 per month will increase the municipal budget by EUR 5.6 million, while the increase in teachers' salaries from the municipal budget will increase the municipal budget by EUR 16.8 million.
Taking into account the situation of the labour market and the base salary limits for public officials set by external normative acts, the Riga City Council increases the base salary for employees in municipal departments by 6% and for employees in the education sector by 12% (the salary increase for teaching staff is higher and is regulated by other normative acts), with a total allocation of EUR 12.2 million for this purpose.
On the initiative of Riga City Council President Vilnis Ķirsis, it is planned to strengthen the municipality's construction and project management capacity by allocating EUR 200 per month in addition to the salary increase and a total of EUR 785,000 per year for council employees with the necessary engineering expertise to perform their duties.
It should be pointed out that the City Council has decided to "freeze" and not increase the salaries of elected municipal officials, thus saving EUR 131,000 in the municipal budget.
Compared to the planned budget for 2024, an additional EUR 21 million has been allocated this year for various expenditure in the social field, bringing the total budget allocated to social spending to EUR 195 million, with an increasing share of social expenditure in the municipal budget.
In 2024, the main focus will be on strengthening the quality of social services by increasing both the salaries of social workers in municipal institutions and the price of the services for contracted organisations, so that partners can also increase their salaries and together attract new employees to the sector.
EUR 34.5 million is to be spent on social benefits and EUR 57.7 million on social services. The support of EUR 18.4 million in public funding for benefits for residents and refugees is also notable.
It is planned to invest EUR 1.5 million to renovate the social care centres "Gaiļezers", "Mežciems" and "Stella maris", EUR 1.7 million to complete the construction of a new day care centre at 11 Priedaines Street, and to redevelop the municipal property at 37 Burtnieku Street, which is an important social services centre.
Riga City Council has also decided to increase the co-financing for parents paying for private pre-school education from EUR 329 to EUR 403 per child, with an additional EUR 6 million allocated for this purpose. It has also been decided to allocate an additional EUR 6 million for catering for children in educational establishments.
Teachers' salaries have been increased from 1 January, with an additional EUR 16.8 million from the municipal budget and EUR 44 million from the state budget.
It is planned to continue the purchase of equipment for the "Design and Technology" curriculum with EUR 0.9 million and to allocate EUR 1.8 million for other equipment and teaching materials. STEAM content learning will be a particular focus, with more than EUR 0.6 million allocated. It is planned to take action to recruit teachers, with EUR 0.4 million allocated for this purpose, and to provide EUR 0.6 million to support NGOs and school camps.
The budget allocates significant resources for the renovation and construction of school buildings. EUR 18.3 million have been allocated for renovation works in more than 20 schools, EUR 2.3 million for energy efficiency improvements in educational institutions, EUR 6.5 million for renovation works in more than 50 kindergartens and landscaping of the territory, EUR 12 million for the construction of sports areas at eight schools and EUR 0.8 million for the renovation of the indoor sports hall of the Arkādija Sports School.
The construction of a new school - Mežaparks Primary School – is planned to be started, with a total budget of EUR 13.5 million, as well as the construction of the Riga Skanste pre-school complex in Grostonas Street, worth EUR 11 million.
Increased funding for culture and sport, with a particular focus on co-financing of vocational sports programmes for children and young people.
Culture, sport and youth
Riga City Council will continue to organise and support various important cultural and sports events in 2024. In addition, EUR 0.4 million will be allocated for the operation of municipal cultural institutions, EUR 1 million for urban art and design projects, and EUR 0.1 million to support non-governmental cultural organisations. An additional EUR 0.3 million is allocated to the vocational sports programme for children and young people, as well as EUR 0.1 million to support national teams in children's and youth sports.
There will be more than EUR 0.15 million in additional funding for work with youth in 2024, which includes additional funding for street work with youth, increased co-funding for important youth work projects in the municipality, non-formal education programmes, budget a pilot project for a youth participation and additional funding for camps, including for children with functional disabilities.
In cooperation with state departments, internal security has been defined as one of the priorities, which is why an 18% increase in funding is foreseen, bringing the total amount to EUR 29 million.
EUR 8 million will be allocated for the establishment of a unified control and video centre for the Riga Municipal Police in Lēdurgas Street, a 10% increase in salaries for municipal police officers and an additional EUR 1.7 million for the purchase of technical equipment (video cameras, etc.) to control traffic offences and ensure public order.
Riga City Council will continue to fund the Ukrainian Support Centre and has allocated EUR 0.4 million for various civil protection measures.
Streets, bridges, bike lanes
This year, Riga City Council is planning the largest-ever investment in the transport sector and urban environment. The cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport is of great importance, with EUR 47 million available in 2024 for the construction of the Kundziņsala overpass and EUR 44 million for the construction of the 4th phase of the Southern Bridge.
This year, the renovation of the Zemitāns overpass is planned to start, with a budget of EUR 24 million. EUR 9.2 million is allocated for the construction of public transport interchanges at railway stations.
In 2024, EUR 35 million is allocated for street and bridge maintenance, more than EUR 34 million for street resurfacing and EUR 9 million for new cycling infrastructure.
To compensate for the discounts granted by the City Council in public transport, this year "Rīgas Satiksme" will receive a grant of EUR 155 million, of which EUR 140.1 million will come from the City Council budget.
This year, the reconstruction of Mūkusala Street and the waterfront will continue, with more than EUR 8 million allocated. Funds are allocated for the 2nd phase of the EUR 3 million restoration of Victory Park, EUR 2.4 million for the redevelopment of the Zolitūde Memorial and EUR 9.3 million for the finalisation of the Skanstes revitalisation project.
As part of the city's further development, EUR 2.6 million has been allocated for the renovation and construction of 19 playgrounds and recreation areas, EUR 0.5 million for new tree planting and EUR 0.9 million for new and improved public toilets.
EUR 1.3 million is allocated for the maintenance of swimming areas and beaches, including a new recreation area on Braila Street by Juglas Lake and a swimming area for the blind, as well as a new recreation area by Bābelītis. EUR 1.5 million is allocated to renovate various paths in parks and cemeteries, to continue projects that started last year and to start new ones.
EUR 4 million are allocated to the CO2 emissions reduction programme.
To start the housing programme and improve people's knowledge of their housing management, a Housing Competence Centre is to be created and EUR 0.1 million has been allocated for this purpose. Housing renewal programmes are planned to start with the support of European Union funds.
EUR 7.9 million is allocated for the reconstruction of three residential buildings, EUR 2 million as municipal co-financing for the renovation of buildings and improvement of courtyards, and EUR 1.35 million for the purchase and renovation of apartments.
Information prepared by: Mārtiņš Vilemsons, Project Coordinator at External Communication Division of Riga City Council Communication Department, email: email@example.com