Helsinki’s Mayor Jan Vapaavuori is following his passion to build the most functional city in the world. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
D uring the following three years, the estimated population growth of Helsinki will remain rapid, with 7,500–8,000 new citizens annually. Preparation for the needs of a growing city lies at the heart of Mayor Jan Vapaavuori’s 2019 budget proposal.
The increase in the appropriations is directed especially toward basic public services, where the population growth increases the costs most directly.
This is seen in the budget proposal as more allocated money to the education division, whose appropriations increase in the mayor’s proposal by 42 million euros (3.6 percent) from the 2018 budget.
“In comprehensive schools and in upper secondary education, the total number of clients will grow by around 2,400 children and young people compared to the current year. This is a sign of the city’s growth and dynamic activities, but the substantial growth poses a challenge to the organization of early childhood education and basic education,” Mayor Vapaavuori said in a bulletin.
“Moreover, the division is initiating several measures rooted in the city strategy, from the earlier introduction of language education to the doubling of the number of available student places in English. These are necessary investments in a city that is becoming increasingly international.”
These are necessary investments in a city that is becoming increasingly international.
In 2018, Helsinki’s tax revenue development has been better than what was anticipated in the budget for the current year. At the beginning of 2018, the city’s local tax rate decreased by half a percentage point to 18 percent, but the local tax revenue will still equal the figure for 2017. This is a consequence of the better-than-average growth of the total amount of wages and salaries in Helsinki. The 2019 budget proposal is based on the current local tax rate of 18 percent. The local tax revenue is expected to keep growing in 2019 to about 2,670 million euros.
Due to the uncertainties related to the future, the outstanding amount of loans has to be kept moderate. According to the city strategy, investments are kept at a level that can be funded without adding to the per capita indebtedness.
Acknowledging the population growth, the outstanding amount of loans can grow by around 45 million euros during the three-year economic plan period. The estimate for the outstanding amount of loans at the end of 2018 is 1,100 million euros or 1,690 euros per capita.
An illustration of the Jokeri light rail line at Kehä I in Espoo. Picture: Ramboll Finland Oy
Historically high investment level
Helsinki’s investment expenditure in 2019 is 774.2 million euros in total. “The city’s investment level is at a historic high. During the last decade, the population of Helsinki has grown by almost as much as the entire population of the smallest region in Central Ostrobothnia as per the government’s proposal. Last year, there were over 8,000 new Helsinkians and the same pace will continue over the next few years,” Vapaavuori said.
“60 percent of the municipalities in Finland are smaller than Helsinki’s annual population growth. There is an increasing demand for an urban lifestyle and the significance of cities is growing. The intensified urbanization requires new housing and new schools, day-care centers, health stations, youth and sports premises, but also traffic and transport infrastructure. Financing all this requires a positive development of the tax revenue in the future as well.”
The housing production goal increases to 7,000 housing units. In 2019, the emphasis of the housing production is especially in the neighborhoods of Jätkäsaari, Kalasatama, Kruunuvuorenranta and Kuninkaantammi. The construction of Hernesaari begins. Business premises are constructed especially in Kalasatama and Pasila.
Jokeri Light Rail line will be built between Itäkeskus in Helsinki and Keilaniemi in Espoo. The planned length of the line is approximately 25 km (15.5 miles), of which 16 km will be in Helsinki and the remaining 9 km in Espoo. The light rail will replace trunk bus line 550, which is the busiest bus line in the Helsinki region.
The liveliest infill construction occurs in Herttoniemi and in the development zones of the Jokeri light rail line. During the planning period, the construction of project areas and the preconstruction and construction of streets and parks required by the infill construction take up a share of about one-third of the expenses in the investment part.
Street and traffic lane investments are estimated at 135.5 million euros in the budget. During the planning period, the expected investments amount to 139.6 million euros in 2020 and to 148.5 million euros in 2021. The most important ones are the street investments to service the housing production.
The total sum reserved for new and additional construction and renovation projects is 260.1 million euros in 2019. The figure is almost 20 percent higher than last year. In 2020 of the economic plan, the estimated sum needed for construction investments is 238 million euros and in 2021 the estimate is set at 230.8 million euros.
As for the new construction, the emphasis during the program period 2019–2028 will be placed on the construction of service buildings in new areas and new buildings that replace existing ones. The most important projects in 2019–2021 are Jakomäen sydän (the heart of Jakomäki), which comprises the area’s new integrated comprehensive school, youth premises and day-care center, Jätkäsaaren peruskoulu, the new replacement building for Vuosaaren lukio, the new replacement building for Puotilan ala-aste and the Kalasatama neighborhood center.
My proposal includes the construction of ten new toilet premises instead of the one previously planned during 2019.
During the five-year period, 2019–2023 of the construction program for house construction projects, a sum of around 780 million euros has been reserved for the education division’s repair construction and new replacement construction projects.
“The appropriation makes it possible to realize reconstructions or new replacement buildings for around 70 schools and day-care centers. The increased precision in the planning is connected to the comprehensive real estate strategy, a first for the city, whose aim is to ensure healthy and secure premises and make the city’s use of premises more efficient. When it comes to the real estate strategy, the objective is to reach the decision-making stage by the turn of the year.”
In addition to the big entities, the mayor’s proposal includes small but important investment objects on the way to building the most functional city in the world.
“For years, there has been an intense debate about the city’s public toilet premises and the inadequacy of them, for example, for meeting the needs of the growing tourism. The debate has not put Helsinki in a good light. For this reason, my proposal includes the construction of ten new toilet premises instead of the one previously planned during 2019,” said Vapaavuori.
600 million to public transport
Municipally owned company Helsinki City Transport’s biggest single investment project is the construction and planning of the infrastructure for the Jokeri light rail line, 26 million euros. Other big traffic investment objects are the acquisition of new inner-city tram cars, the Jokeri light rail depot and renovations of old metro cars. The planning of the Crown Bridges project continues.
The appropriation for public transport development is used for enabling the start of the trunk bus route 510 between Herttoniemi and Otaniemi in 2019 and the trunk bus route 570 between Mellunmäki and Tikkurila in 2020. In 2020, the appropriation for public transport development is mainly directed towards the construction of the Crown Bridges and the Jokeri light rail line.
Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
The mayor’s budget framework proposal, which was published in May, included a proposal for the Helsinki’s longer-term wages and salaries programme. According to the City Board’s decision, the longer-term wages and salaries program, the wages and salaries development plan, will be initiated now, in the budget phase.
The wages and salaries development plan are based on an analysis of the essential development needs connected to the wages and salaries of the personnel and groups of people as well as on the employer’s needs in ensuring the availability of skilled labor.
In the 2019 budget, four million euros has been reserved for the implementation of the wages and salaries development plan.