RIGA - Elections are clearly in the air, as is evident with the announcement that on Nov. 1, the Riga City Council will decide on amendments to the cash-strapped municipal budget which envisage an increase in the funding for social benefits by at least 3.8 million lats (5.4 million euros), reports news agency LETA. The municipal public transportation company Rigas Satiksme will also request an additional subsidy of 4 million lats, said Riga Vice Mayor Andris Ameriks (Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way).
Ameriks explained that the municipality will not decide on an increase of its budget deficit, and that its savings will remain intact, because revenue from residents’ income tax, it is hoped, could exceed the projected figure by approximately 10 million lats this year. In scrounging around for extra funds, the municipality has also managed to find 500,000 lats from seizing and privatizing property.
The municipality’s Traffic and Transport Affairs Committee will discuss the subsidy for Rigas Satiksme. The company could receive half of the amount it currently requests, pointed out Ameriks.
This will be the second time this year that Rigas Satiksme requests additional funding. Earlier this year, the company received 47.5 million lats from the municipality’s budget, which is 2.5 million lats less than a year ago; however, already in April, Rigas Satiksme requested an additional subsidy of 2.1 million lats to cover increased fuel costs, so that the company would not be forced to reduce public transportation routes and increase the price of tickets.
The most significant share of the additional funding will be required to pay out social benefits. According to the municipality’s Welfare Department, the number of needy residents increased 29 percent in the first half of 2011; therefore, at least 3.8 million lats will be required to pay out the benefits.